What is the meaning of purple rain?
The color purple can mean many things such as love, power, or riches. This is because in the past in Egypt, the people believed that only people who wore purple had riches and a sense of authority. The Egyptians also believed that love came from the people who wore this color because it showed a sense of lust to everyone, this didn't mean that they only wore this for lust though. The Egyptians as well believed that this color represented power because this type of paint was very expensive, to the poor people any way.
Purple Rain has appeared in music and is where it has probably had its greatest exposure. Ventura Highway by America and Purple Rain by Prince are the only two that I am currently aware of. From these two songs and many hours of general research I gleaned the following meaning that seems the closest to fitting what is portrayed in both songs.
A wistful yearning by a person for what might have been and a realization of the impossibility that the longed for condition could ever be. Further this person doing the longing wants another person to do something, something that other person seems positively unwilling to do (or is incapable of doing).
Below is a condensed explanation of what I found.
Ventura Highway by America
Wishin' on a falling star, waitin' for the early train.
Sorry boy, but I've been hit by purple rain.
Aw, come on, Joe, you can always, change your name.
Thanks a lot, son, just the same.
It is most likely that Joe is not merely subject to the blues, and possibly have drug problems, but has legal difficulties he is loathe to face. In this sense, the "purple rain" may simply be a hail of personal problems that is too formidable to face and perhaps Joe wants the person he is talking to, to fix things for him.
Purple Rain by Prince
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time see you laughing
I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain
The desire for the woman's laughing means that the narrator wants the woman to be joyful. The color of royalty has traditionally been purple so this rain must obviously be connected to Prince in his "princely" mantle. Prince wished the woman would have accepted the love he wanted to shower upon her. But rain is also most likely a pun. If we replace rain with "reign"; we see Prince wanted the woman to be happy under his rule.
Thus: Purple Rain for Prince is control, connection, even security while the Purple Rain that hit Joe keeps him unsettled, insecure, and on the road.
During the demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa, apart from severe beatings, the protesters were sprayed with water cannon containing purple dye. This allowed the South African police to arrest people even when the demonstrations were over. This became known among the activists as "Purple Rain"
The Romans had no colors with a particular meaning except for the color purple. The senators and aristocrats wore a purple stripe on their tunic and toga. However this Roman "purple" was more like a red-violet, not a deep purple. The imperial purple was a true purple, a Tyrian purple. It, by law, was only worn by emperors and triumphing generals. The Romans had no colors with a particular meaning except for the color purple…