I was walking home the other day in the rain, and I began to think about how much of the wet stuff we’ve been getting lately in the NY/NJ metro area. As usual, my thoughts quickly turned to music, at which point I realized that “rain songs” could be a great Pick Six topic. So, here’s six songs that utilize rain as a metaphor:
– “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35” – Bob Dylan
I’m going to ignore the obvious drug-related connotation of the lyrics, because that’s not what this song is really about. This is a song about the people (like the titular rainy day women) who will hate on you, no matter what you do (“Well they’ll stone you when you try to be so good”, etc.). However, according to Dylan, this is not such a big deal because in the end we all have to face undue criticism at some point in our lives (“I would not feel so all alone/everybody must get stoned”). This song caused quite a controversy when it was released due to the “stoned” references, but that’s exactly the way Dylan wanted it. Ironically, the song itself became unfairly “stoned” by the same type of “rainy day” people it calls out.
– “Rain King” – Counting Crows
Despite its upbeat sound, “Rain King” is a song about crushing loneliness. The title is a reference to the fact that the song’s protagonist “brings the rain” to himself (“I’m alive and I’m sinking in”) and others (“She’s been crying/and I’ve been thinking/that I am the Rain King”), which is the primary reason for his loneliness. The Rain King also can’t seem to decide whether to wait for someone better (“I’ve been here before/and I deserve a little more”) or try to reunite with a recent love that left him (“If there’s anyone at home at your place, darling/
why don’t you invite me in?”). “Rain King” is simply an amazing song, and may well be Adam Duritz’s best songwriting effort to date.
– “No Rain” – Blind Melon
“No Rain” is another song that uses rain as a metaphor for loneliness and depression. The song’s protagonist is just trying to find someone that is there for him or her (“I just want someone to say to me/I’ll always be there when you wake”), but is too depressed to leave the house to actually seek out that special person, spending most of his time watching “puddles gather rain” outside the window. Interestingly, the ending of the song (“Ya know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today/so stay with me and I’ll have it made”) can be interpreted in one of two ways: either the protagonist’s outlook is getting better, or he or she has made up an imaginary friend that may be alluded to earlier in the lyrics (“And all I can do/is just pour some tea for two/and speak my point of view/but it’s not sane, its not sane “). Which one the listener chooses is likely related to his or her current mood.
– “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” – R.E.M
Lyrically-speaking, this is one of the least obtuse songs from R.E.M’s early days. “So. Central Rain” uses hyperbolic imagery to express a communication breakdown in a relationship as an epic storm that separates people. Something happens in the protagonist’s relationship (“These rivers of suggestion are driving me away”), and his partner shuts him out (“Eastern to Mountain, third party call, the lines are down”, “Did you never call? I waited for your call”), ultimately leading to an end of the relationship (“Go build yourself another dream/this choice isn’t mine”). It’s brilliant songs like this that elevated R.E.M out of the local Athens, GA music scene and into the national consciousness.
– “Who’ll Stop the Rain” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
John Fogerty wrote this track after observing the rain pouring down on the crowd at Woodstock. The song begins by making rain a symbol of all the world’s problems throughout the years (“Long as I remember the rain been comin’ down/Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground”). In the second verse, rain becomes a metaphor for the economic powers that hold back progressive ideas (“Five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains”). In the last verse, Fogerty strips all the metaphors away, and the rain is that which fell on the people at Woodstock (“Heard the singers playin’, how we cheered for more/The crowd had rushed together tryin’ to keep warm”). Each of those verses finishes with a simple question that will likely never be answered: “And I wonder, still I wonder/ who’ll stop the rain?”
– “November Rain” – Guns N’ Roses
This song is a great example of why GnR doesn’t get enough credit for their lyrical songwriting. “November Rain” takes a simple metaphor (rain symbolizing relationship problems) and turns it into a 7-minute masterpiece. The story is simple: things are not going well in the protagonist’s relationship (“When I look into your eyes/I can see a love restrained/But darlin’ when I hold you/Don’t you know I feel the same”). The couple is trying to hold it together, but it is not easy to maintain their love in the face of whatever problems they are having (“And it’s hard to hold a candle/In the cold November rain”). However, unlike most of the other songs on this list, “November Rain” has something of a happy ending. After Slash busts in with one of the greatest solos in rock history, the protagonist seems to come to the conclusion that things can change and go back to where they once were (“I know that you can love me/when there’s no one left to blame/so never mind the darkness/we still can find a way”). Because, in the end, “…nothin’ lasts forever/even cold November rain.”