Weather songs: The best music about metereololgy, from Rihanna to Bob Dylan, Bill Withers and Martha Reeves | Music | October 21

From ‘Umbrella’ to ‘Buckets of Rain’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Heat Wave’, atmospheric conditions provide an ever-ready metaphor for emotional turbulence

Weather turns out to be as resilient a resource in songwriting as it is in conversation.

Bob Dylan, for one, was particularly keen on rain as a metaphor for personal and national turbulence – “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, “Buckets of Rain”, “Shelter from the Storm”, “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35” – and he’s by no means alone.

Elvis Presley rightly observed that “When It Rains It Really Pours”, Sixties folk rockers Credence Clearwater Revival saw a deluge as a metaphor for the Vietnam War in “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”, while the Eurythmics would later strike an ominous note on “Here Comes the Rain Again”.

Travis bemoan their misfortune in the effortlessly dreary “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?”, Irma Thomas is in reflective mood on “It’s Raining”, Bill Withers is downright morose on “Ain’t No Sunshine”, and vocal group the Prisonaires feel sorry for themselves on “Just Walkin’ in the Rain”. Quite understandably in their case: they were imprisoned in the Tennessee State Penitentiary when they recorded it.

Tom Waits’s “Rains on Me” is perhaps the ultimate example: “Everywhere I go, everywhere I goooo… It rains on meee.”

Two of the most beautiful uses of rain as pathetic fallacy are unquestionably Billie Holiday’s recording of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather” and Willie Nelson’s melancholy “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”.

Stormier conditions have often inspired heavy metal bands, from Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” to Aerosmith’s “Lightning Strikes” and “Thunderstuck” by AC/DC.

Rain need not necessarily be cause for sorrow though, especially in the movies. Think of Gene Kelly in the title number from Singin’ in the Rain (1952) or BJ Thomas doing Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s lovely “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” during a romantic interlude in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969).

Rihanna’s “Umbrella” is nothing if not a resounding reaffirmation of commitment and “Rainy Night in Soho” by The Pogues is an incredibly evocative, nostalgic declaration of love, as fine a song as Shane MacGowan ever scrawled on the back of a beer mat.

And then, of course, there’s “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls, which needs absolutely no introduction.

His Bobness, bard of rain (Getty) 

After the storm, there’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s joyous Old Testament stomp “Didn’t It Rain?” and Judy Garland’s dreamy “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939).

As conditions improve, think of “Big White Cloud” by John Cale and “Mr Blue Sky” by ELO.

The sun has meanwhile been a metaphor for joy in popular music since the beginning: check out former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis’s classic hillbilly track “You Are My Sunshine” or the optimism of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”, “Sunny Afternoon” by the Kinks and Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman”.

Or, for that matter, “The Pop Star’s Fear of the Pollen Count” by the Divine Comedy or “British People in Hot Weather” by The Fall.

Rising temperatures can also be used to capture a revolutionary mood: see “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.

Wind is usually associated with restlessness or unease: Patsy Cline’s soaring “The Wayward Wind”, “Wild is the Wind” by Johnny Mathis/Nina Simone/David Bowie or Frank Sinatra’s “Ill Wind”.

As for snow, it can inspire an expression of festive glee as on Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” or bring death and tragedy as in Harlan Howard’s devastating country standard “The Blizzard”, recorded by Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and the Handsome Family among others.

For better or worse, here are our top 50 songs on the theme of weather.

50. “Blame it on the Weatherman” – B*Witched

49. “Lightning Strikes” – Aerosmith

48. “Only Happy When it Rains” – Garbage

47. “Come Rain or Come Shine” – James Ray

46. “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” – Sharon Van Etten

45. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Judy Garland

44. “November Rain” – Guns N’ Roses

43. “Shelter from the Storm” – Bob Dylan

42. “Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

41. “Who Loves the Sun?” – The Velvet Underground

40. “Set Fire to the Rain” – Adele

39. “Ride the Lightning” – Metallica

38. “Prayers for Rain” – The Cure

37. “The Wayward Wind” – Patsy Cline

36. “Wild is the Wind” – Nina Simone

35. “Riders on the Storm” – The Doors

34. “I Hear the Rain” – Violent Femmes

33. “Buckets of Rain” – Bob Dylan

32. “Dry Lightning” – Bruce Springsteen

31. “The Rain Song” – Led Zeppelin

30. “Raining in Darling” – Bonnie “Prince” Billy

29. “Angel in the Snow” – Elliott Smith

28. “British People in Hot Weather” – The Fall

27. “Big White Cloud” – John Cale

26. “Heat Wave” – Martha Reeves and Vandellas

25. “Four Seasons in One Day” – Crowded House

24. “You Are My Sunshine” – Jimmie Davis

23. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” – BJ Thomas

22. “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” – Ray Charles

21. “The Pop Star’s Fear of the Pollen Count” – The Divine Comedy

20. “Black Hole Sun” – Soundgarden

19. “Rains on Me” – Tom Waits

18. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” – Willie Nelson

17. “Rainy Night in Soho” – The Pogues

16. “It’s Raining Men” – The Weather Girls

15. “Purple Rain” – Prince

14. “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” – Dean Martin

13. “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” – Credence Clearwater Revival

12. “Ill Wind” – Frank Sinatra

11. “Crying Lightning” – Arctic Monkeys

10. “Here Comes the Rain Again” – Eurythmic​s

9. “Sunny Afternoon” – The Kinks

8. “Umbrella” – Rihanna

7. “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers

6. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” – Bob Dylan

5. “Stormy Weather” – Billie Holiday

4. “The Wind Cries Mary” – Jimi Hendrix

3. “Here Comes the Sun” – The Beatles

2. “Cloudbusting” – Kate Bush

1. “Singin’ in the Rain” – Gene Kelly