Rain. It is both beautiful and melancholy, life-giving and destructive. Even its sound is full of juxtapositions: it can be a soft pitter-patter or a violent, thunderous roar. It is the perfect muse for poets, painters, and musicians alike. Rain is used as a metaphor for many things: humanity, society, balance, and even life itself. I have been inspired by the rain that is currently falling here in southern California (which hardly ever happens) to write about my top five rain-inspired songs, what they mean, and how the nature of rain allows it to be interpreted in so many different ways.
The Rain Song – Led Zeppelin
“Upon us all a little rain must fall”
“The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin not only uses rain but an assortment of weather as metaphors for things that we as humans experience. Springtime represents innocence and beginnings, which are often the sweetest times of life. It is a time to be carefree and joyous as well as to learn and discover new things. With summer comes confidence and assurance that everything will always be fine. Throughout the warmth of spring and summer, love is nurtured and allowed to grow. The seasons do not last forever, however. When the first winter comes, love must be tested by the cold of the rain. In “The Rain Song”, rain represents the struggles that one must undergo that, if overcome, will ultimately strengthen the relationship.
Love Reign O’er Me – the Who
“Only love can make it rain”
In the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, rain represents cleansing and new beginnings. It is the finale to the Who’s “Quadrophenia”, one of their legendary albums/rock operas. In brief, Quadrophenia is centered about the life of Jimmy, a troubled, schizophrenic, British youth named growing up in the sixties who struggles to find himself amongst his conflicting emotions and personalities as well as the misleading trends and fads of the era (specifically the mods) on his quest to be accepted. “Love Reign O’er Me” represents Jimmy, whose conflicting emotions are paralleled to the ever-changing tide, finding that love is a steady rock amidst the ever-changing tide. Love brings the rain, which cleanses the wrongs that have been made in the past and allows for an opportunity to start anew and to forge a fresh and brighter future ahead. Because real love is unconditional, it nurtures new beginnings regardless of the past.
Rain – the Beatles
“When it rains and shines its just a state of mind”
Although Lennon claimed that “Rain” was simply about people complaining about the weather, its likely that there is a deeper message to be had in this classic but underrated Beatles single. The song discusses people taking shelter from the rain because there is not enough sun, and yet when the sun shines people prefer to stand in the shade. Often times, people want what they don’t have, leading to widespread discontent among the population. Rather than despising what you have it is better to simply enjoy the present while it lasts. Instead of complaining about the rain, enjoy it while it lasts, just as there is more joy in cherishing the sunlight than in scorning the sun for it being too hot.
Who’ll Stop the Rain? – Creedence Clearwater Revival
“And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain”
“Who’ll Stop the Rain” is a song of political protest written by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty. Essentially, Fogerty was protesting the empty promises of politicians and other authorities in their claims to make life better as he saw occurring around him. Although everyone claims that they have a plan to improve life, few ever make substantial change. Furthermore, as change is slow to come, all of the troubles that surround us continue to compile, grow, and stem off into new problems. Amongst all of the challenges the world faces, what we need is not more words that claim they will improve life for us all but actions that actually do bring about change.
Riders On the Storm – the Doors
“The world on you depends, our life will never end”
My all-time favorite rain song is the Doors’ “Riders On the Storm”.What I would like to emphasize most for this song is the sound rather than the lyrics, because although Jim Morrison’s poetry is, as always, phenomenal, its the instrumentals that touch me the most for this particular piece. If the rain could sing it would sound like Ray Manzarek’s keyboard in “Riders On the Storm”. Combined with the bass as the backbone of the rhythm section, a sound is achieved that truly emulates both the sound and feeling of rainfall: a repetitive sort of rhythm beneath a melodic dancing of the keyboard rain. Even the song’s history is like rain – sad but beautiful. It was the last song that all of the original members of the Doors would record before Jim Morrison’s premature death in 1971 at the age of 27. Often considered the Doors’ final hurrah, “Riders On the Storm” hit the Hot 100 on July 3, 1971, the day Morrison died. As a southern Californian, the Doors are one of my home bands and this is my theme song for the rare rainy day. One of my fondest memories is of working on a painting in the garage on a grey cloudy day, looking out of the open door to the driveway and listening to the radio. Just as the first few drops of rain began to hit the cement, I heard the steady rhythm of the bass rolling in followed by the chime of a twinkling keyboard.