by Brooke Kennedy
Update: The final selling price of the ruffled shirt came to $33,219. Meanwhile, the rehearsal-used brooch sold for $9,694, and the blue stage-worn one for $11,344.
As Purple Rain approaches its 40th anniversary, Boston-based RR Auction is set to offer several iconic pieces from one of Prince‘s electrifying performances in a special event.
The Fashion of Prince auction brings together over 200 pieces of clothing, jewelry, accessories, concept sketches, and fabric swatches from every era including Purple Rain, Parade, Lovesexy, Sign ‘O’ the Times, and Graffiti Bridge. Three pieces from his 1985 television performance at the American Music Awards (AMAs) will be offered including his white ruffled shirt – a piece synonymous with the Purple Rain era – and two glittering brooches.
The Success of Purple Rain
At the beginning of his career, Prince was a one-man show when creating his music – writing, arranging, producing, and playing every instrument for his first five albums. However, for his next installment, he chose to take a different approach with his new back-up band, The Revolution. Over the course of its production, Prince collaborated with his band members to experiment with the sound that would define his new era, and on June 25, 1984, Prince released his sixth studio album, Purple Rain.1
“There was a lot of influence and input from band members towards what he was doing,” said Matt Fink2, keyboardist for The Revolution. “He was always open to anybody trying to contribute creatively to the process of writing.”
Coinciding with the release of the film of the same name, Purple Rain became a sensation among listeners and music critics alike. The album was the first of Prince’s to reach the Billboard 200, spending over 20 weeks in the number one spot.3 His work was recognized with several award nominations from institutions like the Grammys, the Oscars, and – perhaps most significantly – the AMAs.
He received ten AMA nominations and walked away with three awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album, Favorite Soul/R&B Album, and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for ‘When Doves Cry.’ But his wins were not the most memorable moments to come out of the evening.
A Legendary Performance
As preparations for the live broadcasting were underway, changes were still being made to Prince’s performance down to the smallest details. During rehearsals, he originally wore a small purple snowflake brooch as part of his shiny ensemble. But, finding that the brooch was too difficult to see, a larger alternative was chosen, which can be found on his lapel in footage and photographs from the taping.
Backed by The Revolution, Prince took to the stage to sing his triumphant rendition of Purple Rain, standing in a shimmering green and blue suit adorned with brooches befitting the legend’s glamorous persona.
As the first notes of the song began to play, the crowd erupted into cheers. He ripped his white cloud guitar, and soon the audience was swaying and singing along to his latest artistic masterpiece. Before bringing the song to a close he struck his guitar for a final riff, dropping to his knees to soak in the audience’s applause. This performance solidified Prince as not just a fantastic songwriter but a powerful performer, and by the time the lights had dimmed Prince had jumped from national star to worldwide sensation.
More than 30 years later, this performance has been hailed by Billboard4 as “the most iconic performance in the show’s 45-year history.”
The Fashion of Prince auction closes on November 16, 2023.
- “Purple Rain,” Prince Vault, last updated Aug. 23, 2022, https://princevault.com/index.php?title=Album:_Purple_Rain. ↩︎
- Bill Demain, “The epic story of Purple Rain, the album that turned Prince into a global superstar,” Classic Rock, April 21, 2023, https://www.loudersound.com/features/a-new-revolution-the-making-of-purple-rain-prince. ↩︎
- David Johnson and Julie Shapiro, “How Prince’s Purple Rain Totally Dominated 1984,” Time, April 21, 2016, https://time.com/4303815/prince-dead-purple-rain-1984-album/. ↩︎
- Bryan Rolli, “Best American Music Awards Performances No. 1: Prince Leads Audience in Transcendent ‘Purple Rain’ Sing-Along at the 1985 AMAs,” billboard, November 11, 2017, https://www.billboard.com/music/awards/prince-purple-rain-amas-performance-best-list-8039213/. ↩︎