For an artist who rose to international fame thanks in part to a song called “When Doves Cry,” it’s no surprise that Prince had an affinity for the cooing, feathered symbols of love and peace. Doves were a major part of Prince’s imagery and artistry as early as 1984, and he kept pet doves for the past three decades at his Paisley Park compound.
When Prince died, his sister Tyka revealed that his doves, Majesty and Divinity, stopped cooing. It wasn’t until someone piped their owner’s music into the Paisley Park Atrium that they found their voice again. It was a detail almost as devastating as the news that Prince had passed; a realization that he could be so important to these delicate little creatures that they would visibly grieve his loss, just like we did.
Last week, the male dove in Prince’s duo, Majesty, died.
I’ve been trying for days to wrap my head around what this means for Paisley Park; what it means for the surviving dove, Divinity; what it means for our anxious world. The symbolism is almost too pointed to bear, isn’t it?
But it also made me curious about Prince’s long relationship to these tender birds.
The first time Prince publicly showed his love for doves was in the lead-up to the release of his single, “When Doves Cry,” the first song that was released from Purple Rain. “Why do we scream at each other?” Prince asks in the song, contrasting the chaos of heartache with the peace of the doves. “This is what it sounds like / When doves cry.”
Artwork created around the release depicted a pair of doves, Divinity (in white) and a contrasting black mate. In the tour book sold during the run of shows supporting Purple Rain in 1984 and 1985, Divinity is pictured.
The next time the doves took center stage was around the time of the 1992 Love Symbol Album, when Prince filmed a video with his soon-to-be-wife Mayte Garcia for the song “Seven.” This was Majesty’s debut on screen, as he is cradled in Mayte’s hands, given a kiss on the head, and set free to fly through the set.
The doves’ biggest moment just might be when they received album credits — yes, album credits! — for their contribution to Prince’s song “Arboretum,” a stirring solo piano piece that he recorded alone in Paisley Park’s Atrium for the direct-to-fans release One Nite Alone…, which he sold through his online NPG Music Club in 2002. Since the doves were kept in a cage on the balcony overlooking the Atrium, they could be heard in the recording of the song, and Prince thanked them for their service in the liner notes, writing, “ambient singing: the doves DIVINITY AND MAJESTY.”
It’s worth noting that it’s impossible to say whether the Divinity and Majesty who resided at Paisley Park when Prince passed away in 2016 were the same Divinity and Majesty on One Nite Alone…, or in the “Seven” video, or especially in the photography and artwork from the Purple Rain era. Although their lifespan in the wild is short, when kept in captivity doves can live for over 20 years. And they obviously had top-notch accommodations at Paisley Park, where they were kept in an ornate white cage near Prince’s private living quarters.
What we can say for certain is that these doves were treasured by Prince, and that they had a role in shaping not just his personality but also his art. Rest in peace, Majesty.
How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world so cold?
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry