By Madeline Bocaro ©
Descendants of ancient cultures perform rain dances, believing that music can summon the nurturing and purifying rain for survival of their crop.
In the 1977 film Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro (as Travis Bickle) drives through the rain uttering the film’s famous line,
“Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.” (of New York City).
Bob Dylan warned us that “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”.
Here is my playlist for a rainy day…
Joyfully dancing and splashing through puddles in a rainy street scene, a man in love – Gene Kelly is ‘Singing in the Rain’. The 1952 movie musical (produced and choreographed by Kelly and co-starring Debbie Reynolds) is about the end of the silent film era and the advent of ‘talkies’ – motion pictures with sound. This was the birth of the musical. Many actors were now at a disadvantage, as their inferior voices now detracted from their on-screen charm.
‘Walking in the Rain’ – the 1964 Ronettes song (written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector) celebrates a delightful trek by two lovebirds in the usually dreaded rain. Listen to Ronnie’s crystal-clear vocals on this version without sound effects!
Alternate version – without thunder/rain and strings – studio session
The bombastic and defiant ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ is sung by Barbra Streisand in the 1964 musical film Funny Girl, based on the life of Ziegfeld girl, actress and comedian Fanny Brice who also played Baby Snooks in her own radio series.
Watch & Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yfh_CpA9Sk
‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head’ was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. The Academy Award winning song is sung by B.J. Thomas on the soundtrack to the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s actually an optimistic song about defeating the blues.
‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ by Frank Sinatra is a classic love ballad with music by Harold Arlen in 1946 (after scoring The Wizard of Oz movie in 1939) with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
‘Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)’ is by Melanie Safka. The performance is credited as Melanie with the Edwin Hopkins Singers (a famous religious gospel choir known for their famous and now legendary 1969 hit ‘Oh Happy Day’). This was a hugely inspirational single in 1970 from her album of the same name. Melanie wrote the song after performing at the Woodstock festival at dawn when it began raining. She was inspired by the strong unity displayed there in massive numbers despite the rain. In her strong, yet quivering voice, she sings this glorious uplifting anthem of the 1960s.
Below is the complete song with the lengthy gospel chorus in the ending – and the spoken intro (which was on the single’s b-side) in which Melanie says, ‘Meher Baba lives again’. He is the same guru who is frequently invoked by Pete Townshend. This song also has the great Herbie Flowers on bass (who appear on Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, Nilsson’s ‘Jump Into the Fire’ and many other great songs).
Little sisters of the sun / Lit candles in the rain
Fed the world on oats and raisins / Candles in the rain
Lit the fire to the soul / That never knew its friend
To be there is to remember / Candles in the rain
So lay it down, lay it down, /Lay it down again
Meher Baba lives again
Candles in the rain / Men can live as brothers
Candles in the rain”
We were so close there was no room We bled inside each other’s wounds
We all had caught the same disease / And we all sang the songs of peace
Some came to sing, some came to pray /Some came to keep the dark away…
Complete & HQ – Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gixuWS0bb3Q
Melanie’s live TV performance 1970: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZ52lk9wjZI
‘Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)’ was covered by Mott The Hoople on their 1971 album Wildlife.
Mott The Hoople version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WrZ41skpMA
Read my full story about Melanie’s song here:
‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ is a Bob Dylan song from his 1962 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. He talks about the dark images of society in the news and a future of karmic repercussions to come. There is a fabulous upbeat cover version by Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry on his 1973 debut solo album These Foolish Things.
Bryan Ferry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG2ekQ19adI
The non-album Beatles song ‘Rain’ was the B-side of ‘Paperback Writer’ in 1966. It was one of the first uses of backwards vocals and also tape speed manipulation. It is simply about people complaining about the weather. Even when the sun shines, ‘they slip into the shade.’
Watch & Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK5G8fPmWeA
‘What Have They Done to the Rain’ was an early song written by Malvina Reynolds about ecology – in protest of nuclear testing. It was recorded most successfully by The Searchers in 1965. Other artists who performed the song were The Seekers, Joan Baez and Melanie. I love Marianne Faithfull’s version from her eponymous first studio album – especially this beautiful video!
And what have they done to the rain
Just a little breeze out of the sky
The leaves nod their head as the breeze blows by
Just a little breeze with some smoke in its eye
What have they done to the rain
The Temptations’ 1967 hit ‘I Wish it Would Rain’ finds the singer dejected by his wife’s infidelity, hoping for a rainfall to match his mood.
‘The Rainmaker’ by Harry Nilsson is on his 1969 album Harry. The song is co-written by Nilsson and Bill Martin. Beatles’ alumni Jim Gordon is on drums and pianist Mike Melvoin (father of Prince’s Wendy Melvoin). It’s been covered by Mike Nesmith The 5th Dimension, and others. A rainmaker appears during a drought in Kansas. He summons the rain but when he holds out his hat, the people don’t pay. For their ingratitude, he angrily turns away, leaving the curse of eternal rain upon them. The townsfolk begin to sing a popular nursery rhyme…
The rainmaker smiled as he hitched up his wagon
And without a word he rode way
Then the people of the town heard the sound of his laughter
And they knew the rain had come to stay
Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day
Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day
‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ – one of John Lennon’s favorite songs – was co-written and recorded by Ann Peebles and her soon to be husband Don Bryant in 1973. The song’s intro is a really cool simple percolating sound of raindrops played by an electric timbale.
According to The Who, only love can make it rain. They use two meanings of the word (Reign and Rain) in ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ on their epic Quadrophenia rock opera in 1973. The lyrics refer to Pete Townsend’s guru Meher Baba’s belief that rain is God’s blessing. It is sung by the film’s suicidal lead character Jimmy in the film Quadrophenia
‘It’s Gonna Rain’ (Starpeace 1985) is Yoko Ono’s lighthearted reggae romp. It is also a seriously dire warning that a hard rain’s gonna fall.
Stormy Weather is a stunning song about lost love by Ted Koehler and future Wizard of Oz songwriter Harold Arlen. It was first a staple at New Harlem’s Cotton Club sung by Ethel Waters in 1933. There are also versions by Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra Lena Horne and other greats. The 78 rpm single by The Five Sharps Doo Wop group from Queens, New York released in 1952 is so rare it fetches up to $20,000. Only 200 copies were pressed on Jubilee Records, and maybe 5 copies still exist. The master was destroyed in a fire.
Listen: The Five Sharps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooU8o78lMgw
‘Stormy’ is by Classics IV in 1968 who later had a hit with ‘Spooky’ – which sounded almost exactly like ‘Stormy’ with its Bossa nova beat and minor key melody.
Lou Christie’s voice reaches the upper stratosphere on the falsetto ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ in 1966. The song was later recorded as ‘Lightning Strikes’ by Klaus Nomi on his self-titled debut album in 1981 – arranged by Kristian Hoffman. Nomi’s album has just been re-released on marbled vinyl (2019).
Lou Christie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyRqdzF8swY
Klaus Nomi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gma5IUNMTn0
Read my Klaus Nomi story here:
Klaus Nomi – Riding the New Wave
The Velvet Underground recorded a rollicking tune bordering on country music called ‘Hey Mr. Rain’. It finally appeared in 1986 on a VU compilation album (Another View) of recordings made from 1967 – 1969. The wonderfully wonky warped melody is really cool! It sounds as if John Cale is just learning to play his viola on the spot!
‘Fire and Rain’ is by James Taylor. It was written in 1970 during a time of Taylor’s drug addiction and disillusionment with fame. The song is also about the suicide of his childhood friend Suzanne.
On The Doors’ sixth album L.A. Woman (their final work with Jim Morrison in June 1971) is the song ‘Riders On the Storm’. Rain and thunder sound-effects accompany Ray Manzarek’s eerily trickling/drizzling piano keys conjuring imagery of a killer on the road. An awesome Blondie vs. The Doors mash-up was made by DJ/Producer Mark Vidler in 2005. ‘Riders On the Storm’ was beautifully merged with Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ yielding the super cool ‘Rapture Riders’.
Watch & listen here: Rapture Riders
‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain?’ was a 1971 single by Creedence Clearwater Revival written by their singer John Fogerty who has said that it’s about the band members feeling depressed, rather than elated at having reached the pinnacle of success. The Ramones managed to make an uplifting cover version for their album of cover songs, Acid Eaters in 1993
The Ramones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-cVP5gbL-8
Canadian singer Chi Coltrane’s debut album in 1972 featured the wonderful ‘Thunder and Lightning’.
Watch & Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO5mHKh0Hxs
‘The Rain Song’ by Led Zeppelin is on their classic 1973 album Houses of the Holy. It’s a seven-minute ballad traversing the seasons of love, starting off softly and then gaining more power
‘Yesterday’s Rain’ by The Sweet is on their fantastic fourth studio album “Give Us A Wink!” This was their 1976 break-away record of heavier material than their previous Chinn-Chapman produced Pop and Glam hits. It makes wonderful use of flanging (the name of this technique was coined by John Lennon). The first Beatles track to feature flanging was ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ on Revolver in 1966. Almost all of the songs on the Revolver feature the flanging effect.
Ellen Foley’s 1979 debut album Night Out was produced by Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. Mick’s stellar guitar work is featured on all of the songs. ‘Thunder and Rain’ is a Graham Parker composition. (Ellen is the powerhouse singer behind Meatloaf’s mega-hit ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’) on his album Bat out of Hell.
Read my interview with Ellen Foley
Ian Hunter has a song called ‘Rain’ on his 1981 album Short Back ‘n’ Sides produced by Mick Jones of The Clash. Gorgeous ethereal synthesized sounds of rainfall highlight Ian’s lilting song about a dear old mate who has passed on.
The 1984 film soundtrack and album features the song ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince. The recording is a from a live 11-minute performance of the song, edited down to 9 minutes with studio overdubs. A rare and incredible video of the now iconic ballad ‘Purple Rain’ live in 1983 at First Avenue in Minneapolis exists. This is the first time the song was ever performed live. This performance was the basis of the album track and the soundtrack to the Purple Rain movie in 1984. Whenever I listen to this heavenly orchestrated epic, it still makes me sad that John Lennon never got to hear this song.
Watch & Listen – from the movie Purple Rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvnYmWpD_T8
Prince also released a great song ‘Thunder’ with his band The New Power Generation on the 1992 album Diamonds and Pearls. It’s really funky with Eastern instrumentation.
Watch & Listen: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x44gwft
‘Cloudbusting’ was the second single released Kate Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love. The song was inspired by A Book of Dreams written in 1973 by radical psychologist/philosopher Wilhelm Reich, about the closeness between himself and his son. Reich was the author of The Sexual Revolution which promoted sexual liberation in 1936. He tried to scientifically measure the male orgasm and believed that there is an energy present in all life forms called Orgone.
This lush and gorgeously orchestrate song by Kate, is more like an epic film score than a mere song. She focuses on Reich’s
rain-making machine (a Cloudbuster) which he believed to affect orgone energy to summon rain. Reich was jailed by the U.S. government for his clandestine experimentation. He died in prison. In the music video, Kate plays Wilhelm Reich’s son Peter, while Donald Sutherland plays the part of Reich. After Reich is taken to jail, his son activates the Cloudbuster and makes it rain. Peter was sent a copy of the video by Kate and apparently loved it, saying that it captured the essence of his close relationship with his father.
Guns N’ Roses’ epic ‘November Rain’ builds to a great orchestral crescendo using the chord sequence of Mott The Hoople’s ‘All The Young Dudes’ (written by David Bowie). It’s on their 1992 album Use Your Illusion I. The model in the video is Stephanie Seymour.
Watch and Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SbUC-UaAxE
And now that the rain has stopped, let’s follow the rainbow!
‘She’s a Rainbow’ by The Rolling Stones from their psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request was released as a single in December 1967. String arrangements are by John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin. The trippy music and colorful lenticular album cover was in answer to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, released the same year. John Lennon and Paul McCartney sing uncredited backing vocals. The Beatles’ images are hidden within the Stones’ album art as well.
Blondie’s Debbie Harry does a sweet duet with Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show. ‘Rainbow Connection’ is a beautiful little song. Debbie also performed ‘Call Me’ on The Muppet Show that day in December 1980 (broadcast in January 1981).
Watch & Listen – Rainbow Connection: https://youtu.be/h0Hd3uWKFKY
And ‘Call Me’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfPUCTQJnb8
‘Rainbow Revelation’ is Yoko Ono’s delicate gospel hymn from her 1985 album Starpeace. Yoko blesses us for all of our negative energies and shows us how to transform them in a positive light, illuminating exactly which rewards we will receive for each. The song is reworked on her 1996 album Rising as Revelations’.
Remember, even if you feel that nobody in your life loves you, Yoko loves you!
Listen Rainbow Revelation: https://youtu.be/R9BCoMzw8lI
Revelations: 1996: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOny1kk_RIA
Count your blessings every day for they are your protection
Which stand between you and what you wish not
Count your curses and there will be a wall
Which stand between you and what you wish
The world has all that you need
You have the power to attract what you wish
Wish for health, wish for joy
Remember, you are loved
I love you!
*Somewhere over the Rainbow’ can be found on my Playlist:
There are Places I Remember.
See my ‘Playlists’ category for more themed playlists.
Also see ‘About a Song’ for my stories about specific songs.
Eat to the Beat
A Chain of Songs