Prince Asked Journey’s Permission Before Releasing “Purple Rain”

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PHOTO: Richard E. Aaron (Prince), Ebet Roberts (Schon) | Getty Images

According to a new interview in Billboard, Prince was afraid of being sued for his iconic song “Purple Rain” because it sounded like Journey’s 1983 Top-20 hit “Faithfully.”

Jonathan Cain, who wrote the song, tells Billboard that in early 1984 he was told that Prince wanted to speak with him. Cain took a call from the performer, who told him, “I want to play something for you, and I want you to check it out. The chord changes are close to ‘Faithfully’, and I don't want you to sue me.”

Cain listened over the phone. “I thought it was an amazing tune,” he recalls, “and I told him, ‘Man, I’m just super-flattered that you even called. It shows you’re that classy of a guy. Good luck with the song. I know it’s gonna be a hit.’

“And it was ‘Purple Rain.’”

In addition to the chord changes, the songs share outros that have dramatic vocals and guitar shredding (although “Purple Rain” fades out before the solo develops very far).

“Prince felt, I guess, it was obvious enough that he was worried we were going to sue him,” says Journey guitarist Neal Schon, who played the solo. “We all talked about it, and everybody said, ‘Nah, it’s the highest form of flattery. Let it go.’”

Though Cain might have been able to request a co-writing credit on “Purple Rain,” he says he never regretted that he didn’t seek it.

“No, no, that’ll just bring bad juju on you, and you don’t want to do that,” he says. “I just thought it seriously showed the kind of caring, classy guy Prince was.”

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