Sounds Like Rain


It’s been raining on and off up here since Sunday, with more in the forecast for the rest of the week. Back in 2007, during another particularly rainy stretch, I started writing about rain songs, and the heavens opened up. A reboot follows.

After “moon” and “June,” the rhyme every green songwriter hits next may be “rain” and “pain,” and if not that precise rhyme, then rain as a metaphor for sadness, because rain = tears, as every 12-year-old poet knows. (Dan Fogelberg has made a career out of this.) Plus, being a one-syllable word, “rain” fits in lots of places in a lyric, and being caught in it is an experience we’ve all had. The wonder is that there aren’t more songs about pouring rain, driving rain, dancing in the rain, dancing in the pouring rain, etc.

In “Point Blank,” Bruce Springsteen sings, “You were standin’ in the doorway out of the rain / You didn’t answer when I called out your name.” That’s another familiar use of rain as romantic metaphor. It’s raining, honey, you’re getting wet, but you love me so little that you’d rather stay out in it and catch your death of cold than notice me and accept an umbrella, or a lift, or another pledge of my undying love. (If you remember, in “Point Blank,” after the girl snubs her lover in the rain, she gets capped, which seems a bit harsh, but love’s like that.) And in “Linda Let Me Be the One,” he sings, “In the basement of St. Mary’s / Eddy hides from the rain / In with the stolen sisters / til the streets are dry again,” which is noteworthy mostly because the song popped up on shuffle at the precise moment I happened to be writing about Springsteen lyrics and rain.

I’ve got more tunes by Van Morrison on the laptop than by anyone else, and as a result, it’s always raining:

  • “Half a mile from the county fair / And the rain came pourin’ down” (“And It Stoned Me”)
  • “Say goodbye in the wind and the rain on the back street / In the backstreet, in the backstreet /  Say goodbye to Madame George” (“Madame George”)
  • “We shall walk and talk / In gardens all misty and wet with rain / And I will never, never, never / Grow so old again” (“Sweet Thing”)

That last one might be the best rain lyric there is. Either that or Boz Scaggs in “Runnin’ Blue”: “Left my billfold at the airport / My suitcase on a train / Now I can’t find my umbrella / And it sure looks like rain.”

More?

  • “She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running / Like a watercolor in the rain” (Al Stewart, “Year of the Cat”)
  • “When the rain came I thought you’d leave” (Rod Stewart, “Mandolin Wind”)
  • “You better come on in my kitchen / It’s gon’ to be rainin’ outdoors” (Robert Johnson, “Come on in My Kitchen”)
  • “When the rain washes you clean you’ll know” (Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”)

Paul Simon’s “I Do It for Your Love” opens with the lyric line “We got married on a rainy day.” The song always comes with images of people waiting for buses on wet city streets. The Eagles’ “The Sad Cafe,” from The Long Run, sets the rainy mood from the first note and carries it through from the first couplet: “Out in the shiny night / The rain was softly falling.” Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” kills me every time with “I got my pills to ease the pain / Can’t find a thing to ease the rain.” Some lyrics don’t contain the word “rain,” but you know it’s there, like “Drowning in the Sea of Love” by Joe Simon—“I’m in the middle of a bad love storm.” Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara” makes different use of the same metaphor: “Drowning in the sea of love / Where everyone would love to drown.”

Maria Muldaur’s “Oh Papa,” which has been a favorite of ours around here since always, sounds like rain, right down to a sweet guitar solo that’s like raindrops running down the window. (Which leads naturally to “Windshield wipers slappin’ time / I was holdin’ Bobby’s hand in mine” from “Me and Bobby McGee.”) “I Do It for Your Love” has that rainy sound. So does “Point Blank.”

When we addressed this topic in 2007, the readership contributed a bunch of songs with “rain” in the title or lyrics. If you’re inclined this time, share with the class the songs that sound like rain to you.

8 responses

  1. Flash and The Pan, “Walking in the Rain”, outstanding song. Your post reminded me of it.

  2. Melanthe Alexian | Reply

    I used to play rain sets at WQAX, usually during the Bloomington Monsoon season.

    Ann Peebles – I Can’t Stand the Rain
    Lou Christie – Rhapsody in the Rain (Banned in Chicago!!!)
    Ronettes – Walking in the Rain
    Crazy Horse – Thunder and Lightning
    Temptations – I Wish It Would Rain
    Beatles – Rain
    Credence – Who’ll Stop the Rain & Have You Ever Seen the Rain
    Del Shannon – Runaway
    Led Zep – Rain Song
    Supertramp – It’s Raining Again
    Doors – Riders on the Storm
    Woodstock “Look behind you, look behind you…” and rain chant

    And so on. I also used to play a slow song called “Let It Rain”, belted out by a woman singer with a huge voice (Cathy Carroll?). I still have the 45 I scrounged in Salvation Army, but can’t lay hands on it at the moment and have no idea who did it. Sometimes I would just position the mic near the open window and open it up.

  3. There are lots of songs with “rain” in them but relatively few that actually make me think of rain.
    (Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter In The Rain” always makes me chuckle. I wonder if the New York-bred Sedaka has ever walked along country roads with his baby.)

    I can’t think offhand of a song that really captures rain, at least without using thunder as a sound effect.
    You mentioned “And It Stoned Me,” which reminds me of those summer days where you’ll get a half-hour burst of rain and then the sun comes gloriously out again.

    The Steve Miller Band’s “Song for Our Ancestors” always reminds me of fog, if that counts for anything.

    1. Flash and the Pan’s Walking In The Rain sounds like rain, and walking in the rain, and makes one think of rain.

  4. The way the piano tinkles and runs on Ronnie Milsap’s “Smoky Mountain Rain” evokes both the light rain and the thunder …. And Milsap was part of the crew on Elvis’ “Kentucky Rain,” I believe, so he’s pretty well-versed on the subject.

  5. Not much of an Elvis guy .but his take on Eddie Rabbitt’s “Kentucky Rain” is a great one. On the other hand there’s Eddie’s “I Love A Rainy Night”…which is all wet.

  6. In the pre-“all information is at your fingertips era” I was on the phone, on hold and The Dramatics’ “In the Rain” was playing while I waited. I KNEW I’d heard it before but not sure who did it. When the person took me off hold I frantically asked them, “Who does that song?!!” They of course probably couldn’t even hear it on their end and I think I spooked them a little bit. Hey, I need to know that kind of stuff.

    Country songwriter Mickey Newbury did an album using rain sound effects from the LP “One Stormy Night” by the Mystic Moods Orchestra to segue between his songs.

  7. Not all of the tracks on Glenn Yarbrough’s 1966 album, “The Lonely Things: The Love Songs of Rod McKuen,” mention rain – I know one does for sure, and think more do (but I’m not going to go check) – but the entire album feels like a rainy day. In San Francisco. With the multi-colored cat in the window across the street not caring how I feel. (I mock a little, as McKuen can over-write as well as anyone, but the more restrained songs and Yarbrough’s voice get to me every time and have done so since 1968.)

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