Purple Rain: Why is Prince Known for the Colour Purple?
Exploring the colour purple and its significance in the life of a musical icon
Prince Rogers Nelson, better known simply as Prince, was a musician and cultural icon whose influence transcended genres, generations, and borders. From his innovative blend of funk, rock, pop, and soul to his androgynous fashion sense and taboo-breaking lyrics, Prince was a true original who pushed boundaries and inspired countless artists and fans.
One of the most enduring symbols of Prince’s legacy is the colour purple, which he incorporated into his music, image, and persona in various ways (and also the colour that I captured Prince in with my Jackson Pollock-style pop art painting). But what was the reason behind Prince’s obsession with this colour? No one can quite say for sure, but there are many theories and possible explanations. I explore some of the possible reasons and interpretations behind Prince’s use of the colour purple below.
Prince was known for his affinity for the colour purple, which he built into his music, fashion and persona. Purple represented his individuality, creativity and spiritual depth. Also the colour of royalty and of his father’s musical instrument, Prince’s use of purple established him as a pop icon.
Let’s explore these interpretations in more depth – just how does the colour purple represent each of these qualities? Read on to find out.
Purple as a symbol of royalty, spirituality, and creativity
Purple has long been associated with royalty, nobility and power, dating back to ancient times when it was the most expensive dye to produce. Only emperors, kings and queens were allowed to wear purple robes or garments, as it symbolised their status and authority. In this context, purple also signified wealth, luxury, and exclusivity.
For Prince, the colour purple was a natural choice to reflect his own status as a musical “prince” who was elevating black music and culture to new heights. In songs like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” and “The Beautiful Ones,” Prince used purple as a metaphor for love, spirituality, and transcendence. He once said, “Purple is the colour of the sky at dawn and at dusk, when you can’t tell what colour it is… Purple is love, and that’s what all of my songs are about.”
Prince also incorporated purple into his fashion and stage design, from his signature purple trench coats and high-heeled boots to the purple lighting and decor of his concerts. By doing so, he created a cohesive and immersive purple universe that reflected his vision and artistry.
Purple also has spiritual connotations, particularly in the chakra system and new age spirituality. The crown chakra, located at the top of the head, is often associated with the colour purple and represents the connection between the individual and the divine. Similarly, the concept of the “purple flame” in new age spirituality refers to a powerful and transformative energy that can be accessed through meditation and visualisation.
Prince’s music and lyrics often expressed themes of love, sensuality, and artistic expression that align with these meanings of purple. He celebrated the beauty and complexity of romantic relationships, as well as the joys and challenges of being an artist in a changing world. By embracing purple as a symbol of these themes, Prince created a unique and enduring legacy that still resonates today. Some people also speculate that Prince was maybe just a big fan of his local American football team, the Minnesota Vikings, who play in purple. However of all possible theories, this one is thought unlikely.
Gender, sexuality and identity in Prince’s purple universe
Prince’s use of purple was also a deliberate rejection of traditional gender roles and stereotypes. He embraced androgyny and blurred the lines between masculinity and femininity, challenging the idea that men had to be hyper-masculine to be successful in music or any other field. Purple – somewhere between gender-stereotyped blue and pink – could be interpreted as embodying this idea.
Purple played a key role in Prince’s gender-bending aesthetic. He often wore purple blouses, ruffled shirts, and other flamboyant clothing that highlighted his slim and androgynous physique. He also wore makeup and styled his hair in a way that defied conventional male grooming standards. By refusing to conform to gender norms, Prince created a new kind of masculinity that was both daring and irresistible.
Prince’s songs and videos also featured themes of sexual liberation, desire, and taboo-breaking that challenged mainstream sensibilities. Subsequently, Prince paved the way for other artists to explore their own identities and express themselves authentically.
The colour purple in Prince’s legacy
Prince’s association with the colour purple has continued long after his death in 2016. The colour has become a symbol of his music and persona and is often used in tributes and memorials to him. The Broadway musical adaptation of “The Color Purple” even included a tribute to Prince after his death, with the cast performing a rendition of his hit song “Purple Rain” during a show.
In addition to its cultural significance, the colour purple has also played a role in preserving Prince’s legacy. The Pantone Color Institute, a company that specializes in colour matching and identification, created a custom shade of purple in honour of Prince after his death. The colour, called “Love Symbol #2,” was inspired by the symbol that Prince used as his name during a contractual dispute with his record label.
The creation of the colour was a fitting tribute to Prince’s legacy and ensured that his connection to the colour purple would continue for years to come. In fact, my pop art painting of Prince in 2020, created in my signature Jackson Pollock style, features several shades of purple acrylic paint within it for an instantly recognisable tribute to the pop icon.
In conclusion, Prince’s love for the colour purple was a defining feature of his career and persona. It represented his individuality, creativity, and spirituality and helped to establish him as an icon and a cultural force. The colour continues to be associated with his music and legacy, ensuring that Prince’s connection to purple will remain a vibrant part of popular culture for generations to come.
What is your favourite Prince song? Can you think of another musician as closely associated with a single colour as Prince is with purple?
My ‘Purple Rain’ Prince pop art painting, along with the rest of my collection of famous faces, can be viewed at www.bykerwin.com. High-definition prints of your favourite music icons are available from £35. Fast worldwide delivery and instant impact guaranteed. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.