Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Ornithologists: Doves Don’t Cry; Prince An Idiot

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When Doves CryLos Angeles (AP) – Scientists who study avian physiology and behavior have criticized Prince’s 1984 single When Doves Cry, accusing the singer/songwriter of sowing ignorance – or, more likely, betraying it.

Noting that pigeons do not even have tear ducts, ornithologist Dror Adler of the University of California at Los Angeles and several other UCLA researchers castigated Prince, whose number-one single, the lead track from the album Purple Rain, for spreading inaccurate information about birds in general and doves in particular. “Even if doves could cry, which any fool knows they can’t, they certainly wouldn’t sound like the garbage-pail-worthy lyrics Prince seems to think they would express,” wrote Adler in an article for the journal Ornithology Today. Nor would it resemble the instrumental portions of the song, which Adler likened to the results of a drunk toddler crawling around on a synthesizer keyboard.

Doves, a term used interchangeably with pigeons, represent about 310 different species. As with all other birds, their eyes do not produce moisture; any such occurrence would indicate an illness or defect. As Adler notes in the article, Why Prince Is An Idiot, “Members of the family Columbidae” – the taxonomic group that includes all 310 species – “show their distress by making sounds similar to their usual cooing, a sound that could not be construed as ‘crying’ except by a listener with guano for brains.” Guano generally refers to bird feces, but can also be used in the context of other flying creatures such as bats.

In an interview, Adler explained why he and his team chose to publish the article now, nearly three decades after the song’s initial release. “The song, which for reasons no intelligent human wants to explore, enjoyed immense popularity in 1984, but no one had the stupidity to cover it until ten years later,” he said, referring to an a cappella version by the Flying Pickets in 1994. “The scientific community was disappointed that this ‘song’ wasn’t allowed to remain in the obscurity it deserves, but saw the cover and a few others in the late 1990’s as an unfortunate development that we could simply ride out.”

“But the early 2000’s saw a few more releases, and in the last seven years or so, there has been at least one cover per year, and we decided we had to step in and put paid to this imbecilic notion that doves cry,” he said, in rising tones. “Billboard magazine may have ranked the song number one for 1984, but the only way I can endorse that is by noting their use of the word ‘rank’.”

The team’s criticism of the song was not restricted to its scientific inaccuracy. They also noted that the opening stanza contains an egregious use of the pronoun “I” as the object of a preposition: “…of you and I engaged in a kiss.” Grammatically, the correct word is “me,” which Adler notes, would fit perfectly into the song’s meter, but which Prince chose to ignore, perhaps thinking, Adler surmised, that it sounded better or more formal. “But anyone who does that is an idiot,” he concluded.


Written by Thag

December 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Oh great, now I got this crappy song stuck in my head…

    List of X

    December 8, 2013 at 6:34 am

  2. He had to use doves in the movie Purple Rain, so he came up with a nonsensical song around them.

    The word Dogs could have replaced the word Doves and the song would have made more sense.

    Andrew Falconer

    June 30, 2014 at 5:53 am

  3. Prince could have swapped the word FLY for the word CRY and the song would have edged closer to making sense.

    Andrew Falconer

    June 30, 2014 at 5:55 am

    • Um…what it sounds like when doves fly is FLAPFLAPFLAPFLAP, which, as I recall, does not feature in the song.


      June 30, 2014 at 6:51 am

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