Mood music: for singers and songwriters, raindrops keep falling on their heads. Richard Williams picks the best rain songs
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, March/April 2013
FRANK SINATRA HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY
Like so many beautifully crafted songs that we now see as standards, this one—music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke—was rescued from a flop musical. Sinatra sings it with the sombre wistfulness of a man gazing through a rain-streaked window.
RONETTES WALKING IN THE RAIN
A crash of thunder, the splash of rain on the pavement, and Veronica Bennett, just 21, begins to sing her song of yearning for a boy who would hold her close in a storm. Four years later Ronnie married her producer, Phil Spector; it did not end well.
MILLIE JACKSON (I FEEL LIKE) WALKING IN THE RAIN
Another downpour from the sound-effects department, but this time the singer is indoors, cooped up in a dying relationship with a man whose silence makes her feel like going outside and letting her tears merge with the cold, soul-cleansing raindrops. A brooding southern-soul ballad with stylish orchestral touches.
SUPERTRAMP IT’S RAINING AGAIN
The lament of put-upon chalet girls from one end of the Alps to the other: the last decent fall of snow is a distant memory, it’s raining, and the stupid clients have an excuse to do nothing but stay inside, watching DVDs, demanding extra meals and generally getting in the way.
BOB DYLAN EARLY MORNIN’ RAIN
No songwriter takes rain more seriously than Dylan, to whom it can symbolise everything from nuclear fallout to existential loneliness. Here he tackles Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad of longing for home, using the lightest of touches and a homespun south-of-the-border lilt to keep the mood wry rather than maudlin.
TEMPTATIONS I WISH IT WOULD RAIN
A classic from Motown’s golden era. "Sunshine, blue skies, please go away/My girl has found another and gone away": David Ruffin beseeches the celestial special-effects unit to provide the appropriate backdrop to his despair, while the other four Temptations scurry for umbrellas.
DAN PENN RAINING IN MEMPHIS
A writer of hits for Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge and others, Penn is also a magnificent blue-eyed soul singer. He tells us that he left his fiancée crying in the chapel on their wedding day, and now he’s paying the price. He’s pacing the sidewalks and the rain won’t stop.
EVERLY BROTHERS CRYIN’ IN THE RAIN
Shivering guitar chords and rumbling tom-toms hint at inclement weather in one of the finest recordings by the brothers whose Kentucky bluegrass background enabled them to inject musical spine and authentic drama into their teen-friendly hits. Music by Carole King, lyrics by Howard Greenfield—their only collaboration.
EURYTHMICS HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN
Eurythmics’ early electro-disco hits sparkled with allusive imagery and exotic ambience, so a sudden shower doesn’t just make Annie Lennox’s hair wet. It falls on her head like a memory, like a new emotion, and tears her apart.
All songs at iTunes
Richard Williams is a sports columnist on the Guardian and a former editor of Melody Maker and Time Out. His books include "Long Distance Call".