Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head: 
The Story Behind A Pop Classic

Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott

Above all, I try to create an emotion to which others can respond. – Hal David

Never be ashamed to write a melody that people remember. – Burt Bacharach


During the mid-60's to the early 70's, it would be difficult not to find a Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune on the pop charts. David the shy, reserved lyricist teamed up with the gregarious melody maker Bacharach to create some of the most memorable songs in American music.  The songs they wrote were covered by some of the greatest performers of that era - Dione Warwick ("Do You Know The Way To San Jose?"), Dusty Springfield ("The Look Of Love"), Tom Jones ("What's New Pussycat?"), The Carpenters ("Close To You"), Herb Alpert ("This Guy's In Love"), Jackie DeShannon ("What The World Needs Now"), and B.J. Thomas (Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head) just to name a few.  Their easy listening pop was an alternative to the harder edged rock music of the day becoming a soundtrack for a generation.

My favorite Bacharach-David song would have to be "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head". The song itself has an interesting back story involving two of my favorite musical performers – B.J. Thomas and Ray Stevens. Thomas would be the eventual singer of the song, but he wasn't the first choice.  Ray Stevens was who Bacharach had in mind when he and Hal David were composing the soundtrack for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid directed by George Roy Hill.  Bacharach considered Stevens a "a very hot singer at the time" although Stevens had been recording since the early 60's achieving success with a string of novelty hits.  Bacharach showed Stevens a cut of the film with "Raindrops" slated for a scene with Paul Newman and Katherine Ross on a bicycle.  Here the versions and memories of what happened are blurred.  Bacharach claims Stevens detested the song, Stevens claims he was just ambivalent, desiring to spend all his time and efforts on a song he had just recorded by Kris Kristofferson called "Sunday Morning Coming Down".  With the decline by Stevens, Bacharach moved on to B.J. Thomas who had already had a successful career by that time with hits such as "Hooked On A Feeling" and a Hank Williams cover of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".  Thomas agreed to record the song, but by his own admission, he was boozy, woozy, and had a bad case of laryngitis at the time.  Fortunately, with the help of his wife, he was able to sober up and with a B12 treatment powered through the vocals after five takes. However, according to Bacharach as written in his memoir (Anyone Who Has A Heart), the president of Twentieth Century Fox, Dick Zanuck, had to fight his own studio to keep the song in the picture.  It was thought the song was "too risky and unconventional".  Also, the scene itself contained no rain – just plenty of sunshine.

The song reached number one on the U.S. pop charts in January of 1970.  Bacharach and David were honored with an Oscar for best original song.  Bacharach also received an Oscar for Best Original Score. Stevens had absolutely no luck with his recording of "Sunday Morning Coming Down".  In mood and lyrics, it was the antithesis of "Raindrops".  "Raindrops" was a song about overcoming adversity, "Sunday Morning" was a song about being subsumed by it.  While Stevens took the song to number #55 on the Billboard Country charts, Johnny Cash took it to number #1 with his version.  As Stevens recalled, the song was much more appropriate for the rough-hewn Cash.  But before you start to feel too sorry for Stevens, he ended up with a monster hit of his own in 1970 called "Everything Is Beautiful".  The song attacked prejudice and stereotypes.  His efforts landed him a #1 on the Billboard Pop charts.  He also garnered a Grammy for best male pop vocal performance.  

As for the film itself, the American Film Institute selected it as the seventh greatest Western of all time.  And all those involved with the song would continue to have stellar musical careers.  In fact it was a joyous surprise when I came upon this clip of who else – Stevens and Thomas performing "Raindrops" in Ray's Nashville club in 2019.     

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Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott is a songwriter, musician, performer and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.  For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2021 Les Marcott
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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