How ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’ Became Prince’s Unintended Eulogy
“Sometimes It Snows in April” closes Prince’s second film, 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon, and Parade, the accompanying soundtrack album. It’s as spare and haunting as song as any in Prince’s catalog, especially when listened to amidst the whimsical fare that characterized much of the French Riviera-based film.
A great deal of mythology has surrounded “Sometimes It Snows in April," especially since Prince’s passing. In the movie, the song appears in the aftermath of the murder of Christopher Tracy, Prince's character in the film. “April” is believed to have originally been recorded on April 21, 1985, 31 years to the day before Prince's own transition. Guitarist and co-writer Wendy Melvoin confirmed the date before performing the song at a Chicago stop on the Revolution's 2017 tour.
The titular phrase was first uttered in public a year prior to Parade’s release. Prince’s manager, Steve Fargnoli, released a statement on April 2, 1985, announcing the musician’s decision to retire from live performance. According to the announcement, when Fargnoli asked Prince to explain his decision, two cryptic statements were offered: “I'm going to look for the ladder” and “Sometimes it snows in April.” Barely a month after the statement was issued to the public, Prince released his first new music since the blockbuster Purple Rain. Around the World in a Day contained a song entitled “The Ladder." A year after that, “Sometimes It Snows in April” materialized, and Prince & the Revolution were back on the road that summer.
The melancholy air of “April" hadn't made itself present in much of Prince’s prior work. He never discussed the song in detailed fashion with the public, and there is some ambiguity regarding the character who provided perspective for the lyrics. Perhaps “Sometimes It Snows in April” was sung from the viewpoint of the Tricky character, who was played by Jerome Benton, a member of two separate Prince spin-off bands, the Time and the Family. In Under the Cherry Moon, Tricky was Christopher’s partner-in-crime, confidant, roommate and a witness to Christopher’s murder. This wrinkle makes the song even more unique, as Prince’s lyrics rarely, if ever, discussed relationships of the non-romantic variety (although several folks on message boards have surmised that the real romance in the film was between Christopher and Tricky, not Christopher and the Mary Sharon character he was wooing.)
Although it was never released as a single and didn't receive much airplay as an album track, “Sometimes It Snows in April” became a much-beloved song among hardcore Prince-heads, and was a particular standout when performed live. Following Prince’s death, D’Angelo performed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, accompanied by the duo Princess. The neo-soul superstar delivered an incredibly emotional rendition, undeniably the best of the televised Prince tributes. Eerie coincidence aside, “Sometimes it Snows in April” joins “Purple Rain” as one of the only Prince songs capable of properly capturing the feeling of his loss within the icon’s fan base.