What exactly is “purple rain?”

While it will remain a tough pill to swallow for quite some time that Prince passed away at only 57 years old, his incredible life and music should both be remembered with fondness. Perhaps the most talented pop musician to have ever graced a stage or a recording studio, Prince will remain an icon for as long as there is still music.

There are many images and associations that come to mind when thinking of Prince. Some might think about his platform shoes and frilly shirts. Some might think about that symbol he changed his name to. Regardless of the specific images, there is likely one commonality associated with them: the color purple.

Prince became a legend after releasing his most famous work, the 1984 album Purple Rain. The most famous song from the album, also entitled “Purple Rain,” became Prince’s most famous song, and the movie Purple Rain, a rock musical drama, became a cult classic. Therefore, the color purple became synonymous with the Purple One himself, Prince Rogers Nelson.

We’ve all heard the song. We’ve all seen Prince decked out in all purple, playing a purple guitar. But what exactly is purple rain, and why did it mean so much to Prince that he molded his public persona around it?

The lyrics to “Purple Rain” are somewhat ambiguous. But a common belief is that they indicate “purple rain” to be a desire for someone that can never be satisfied, specifically loving someone who loves someone else. Another widespread belief is based upon the theme of the Purple Rain movie, and it is that purple rain represents a redeeming feeling of freedom following the end of a relationship.

However, Prince once explained purple rain’s symbolism to “pertain to the end of the world,” which, knowing Prince, was probably a melodramatic red herring. Lisa Coleman, the keyboardist for Prince’s backup band, The Revolution, proclaimed purple rain to symbolize a new beginning.

So who knows what purple rain truly means? Perhaps it’s a euphemism for acid rain, and maybe Prince was secretly an abnormally fashionable environmentalist. Regardless of what the term purple rain references, it defined Prince’s career and is one of the most recognizable phrases from any song ever recorded.

Many of Prince’s lyrics were like his persona: alluring and mysterious. With that being said, I think we can all develop our own definition of purple rain based on how it makes us feel, and that would be perfectly fine. Prince probably wanted it that way. As for the coolest dude to ever claim Minnesota as his home, Prince will be greatly missed, but his life should be looked back upon solely with happiness. After all, Prince never asked for tears. He only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain. As for what that means, it’s entirely up to you. Prince was an artist through and through, and his work should be interpreted as such.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince has left the building and stepped out into the purple rain. We all wish he would come back inside, but at least we have his musical masterpieces to comfort us in his absence. Rest easy, Prince. You will be missed.