“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” was released in October of 1969, and marched on up to reach the number one position of the music charts in January of 1970. It remained at the top spot for three weeks. It was used as the centerpiece of George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Performed by B.J. Thomas (not to be confused with porn actress, B.J. Thomas of the ’80s) with music written by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” has held a very special place in my soul.
Apparently, I’m not the only person who had such strong feelings for this catchy little ditty. It was used effectively in Spider-Man 2, and Forrest Gump. And why not? It is the perfect melody for a montage.
It was the spring of 1970, I was in 3rd grade. I was 7 years old, unaware that my musical life was about to be seriously 7 Year Bitch Slapped.
Miss McEldowney wheeled in a squeaky rumbling cart carrying some crazy contraption on top. I’d seen it once before. It was a phonograph player. Earlier in the school year, she brought in the 45 RPM, “Up, Up And Away” by the 5th Dimension. The record player was in a hinged box, and when lifted, looked something like this:
A bunch of wires hung out of the back of the player leading to a pair of speakers, maybe just one, on the lower shelves of the cart.
She handed Lloyd, that brown nosing teacher’s pet, a stack of freshly printed dittos, and asked him to pass them out. Lloyd was Indian, not Native American Indian, but from India Indian, and he was the new golden boy. I used to be the golden boy, so you might understand my animosity towards him, Lloyd, dick.
I took the sheet of paper begrudgingly, and took a deep whiff of the bluish purple print. It smelled so good and chemical-y. The reason this technology no longer exists is because the ink was toxic. Why do all good scents end up being toxic?
After huffing the paper scent, I looked at the lyrics printed on the still moist paper. I remember the paper being warm too, but after some research, realized that my memory is false.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”Raindrops keep fallin’ on my headAnd just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bedNothin’ seems to fitThose raindrops are fallin’ on my head, they keep fallin’So I just did me some talkin’ to the sunAnd I said I didn’t like the way he got things doneSleepin’ on the jobThose raindrops are fallin’ on my head, they keep fallin’But there’s one thing I knowThe blues they send to meet me won’t defeat meIt won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet meRaindrops keep fallin’ on my headBut that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ redCryin’s not for me‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’Because I’m freeNothin’s worryin’ me[trumpet]It won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet meRaindrops keep fallin’ on my headBut that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ redCryin’s not for me‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’Because I’m freeNothin’s worryin’ me.
I was baffled. How were all these lyrics going to come together in song? More importantly, now that my paper was drying, how was I going to get another snort of ink scent? As Miss McEldowney jury rigged the stereo components, I looked around the classroom, my fellow students had their ditto pressed up against their faces making obscene sniffing sounds.
Miss McEldowney, probably Irish and in her 20s, I would not have known nor cared back then, said something like this, “Class, today we’re going to listen to my favorite song, perhaps it will be your favorite song too.”
She placed the needle on the 45, and the crackle of vinyl was released through the primitive grade school industrial speakers, followed by the strum of a solo ukelele (as opposed to an orchestra or two ukeleles, or two orchestras), representing a meditative solitary moment.
Then came this earnest voice, as if talking in a sing-song internal monologue, he begins his damned plight, “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head”.
Followed by, “And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed, nothin’ seems to fit”.
Assuming that one can relate to being that guy who’s growing larger, the listener choses to accept this ill-fate or deny it. Being in third grade, this concept was a great concern. I remember waking up one morning wondering, how long would it be before I outgrow my bed? Days? Weeks? Years?
The next verse offers a solution of negotiating with the sun, and by this point of the song, I was completely in, hook line and sinker. The honest optimism struck a very important chord in me, my growth in age and maturity took leaps and bounds that day.
The conclusion that raindrops are not going to bother the singer anymore, because of his newly realized freedom opened up a side of me that I never knew existed. And to conclude the song with, “Nothin’s worrying me”, oh my God, how I wanted to be that guy.
There was a sense of great relief as the song concluded, but it wasn’t quite over yet. At the 2 minute 23 second point, there it was: the fake ending to all fake endings, a crazy riff that ascends time signatures and is as infectious as old school swine flu. Here’s some technical terms for you, F major 7 and E-flat major 7, back and forth in a 4/4 to 5/4 time signature, with the melody played out on a trumpet.
That melody was stuck in my head for the next month, maybe longer. When I was a youth, I was really bad at keeping track of time, in fact, that still holds true today.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” was the first pop song that held any significance in my life. I had to have it. That Christmas, I asked my parents for the record, I got this instead.
From here, I became the record/music nerd I am today. Thank you, Miss McEldowney, and as always, thank you Burt Bacharach.
- The song was originally offered to Ray Stevens, who turned it down to record “Sunday Morning Coming Down” instead. Nice artistic turn, but a loss of some serious cash.
- Burt Bacharach, usually just the composer, came up with the title.
- B.J. Thomas was recovering from laryngitis while recording “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”.
- The trumpet solo was recorded by Chuck Findley, and not Herb Alpert. This is a what? what? moment for me, for I just assumed it was Herb.
- This is not confirmed, but Bacharach may have approached Bob Dylan with the song first. Can you imagine how different this world may have turned out?
- Won the best song from an original soundtrack Academy Award in 1970.
- I own 21 cover versions.