Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” is the perfect antidote if you’re feeling a bit glum.
Originally written for the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1969. It’s since featured in a number of other films and TV programmes, including Forrest Gump and Spider-Man 2.
In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” is used as a bit of an interlude when things start to get a bit hot and heavy for Butch and Sundance (Robert Redford and Paul Newman, respectively).
Back in the 1960s they did weird things in movies for no apparent reason and this was one of those occasions.
I’ve never been an outlaw on the run, but I imagine if I had been running from the forces of law and order I’d be quite unlikely to take some time out to drive around a back yard somewhere with Katharine Ross on the crossbar of my bicycle.
It’s not so much the Katharine Ross bit I’d be questioning…in fact that part of it is entirely understandable…it’s the feeling that I’d probably want to put as much distance between myself and the forces of law and order as I could.
Still, when the producers of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid decided they needed a tune to go with this otherwise hard-to-explain interlude, they pressed Burt Bacharach and Hal David into service.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David were one of the 20th century’s premier songwriting teams, writing scores of hits for the biggest artists of the time…people like Dionne Warwick, The Carpenters and Dusty Springfield.
Their songs won Grammys and Oscars by the boatload and their hits…including “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”…were recorded time and time again by a range of artists. Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote many of what we now think of as the classic songs of the 60s and 70s.
As a songwriting team, Burt Bacharach and Hal David each had their own specialisation. Bacharach wrote the music and David wrote the lyrics.
Hal David’s lyrics tended to be tender, thoughtful and uplifting. Although Burt Bacharach has on occasion claimed credit for coming up with the title for today’s song, he didn’t write these words…Hal David did…
Raindrops keep falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet
Are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Those raindrops are falling
On my head they keep falling
This is the perfect scene-setter for Paul Newman and Katharine Ross’s bicycle ride in the film. Paul Newman (as The Sundance Kid) has lived his life on the run, robbing banks and living the high life on the proceeds, but without any roots or someone to take care of him.
With his money, he can buy companionship on the road, but all-too-quickly has to move on when the forces of law and order find out where he is.
At first, I’m sure, this was fun…a big adventure…a lark with his mate Butch Cassidy. But all of us, after a while, dream of being able to settle down with someone special and spend the rest of our lives together.
The Sundance Kid was no different, although he tried very hard to pretend otherwise.
Katharine Ross plays a schoolteacher in the film…a role that symbolises a stable and loving environment with someone who gives their life to supporting others. But Butch and Sundance persuade her to come on the run with them and escape to Bolivia where they can be free and settle down.
Of course, if you’ve seen the film you know it doesn’t quite work out like that, but I won’t spoil it if you haven’t.
This is where Hal David’s gentle, philosophical lyric writing comes into its own…
But there’s one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me
Won’t defeat me
It won’t be long
Before happiness steps up
To greet me
There are some nice rhymes going on in there…meet, defeat and greet don’t often appear in the same verse together…
But I really like the idea of happiness stepping up to greet someone.
It’s “stepping up”. This is, it’s taking the initiative to come forward. You haven’t found it. Happiness has found you.
And it doesn’t just wash over you, or pass you by on the street…
It greets you…shakes you by the hand…grasps you warmly to its bosom…hugs you until the only thing you can think of is how happy you are.
It doesn’t let you walk on by until it’s done that.
This is no fleeting encounter, unlike all of Sundance’s other dalliances. In that moment, riding a bike with Katharine Ross, he’s found everything he ever needed. Everything he’d been searching for, but never found. In that moment, happiness stepped up to greet him.
I’m a big fan of Hal David’s lyrics, but this might just be the best line he ever wrote. On the surface very simple, but at the same time incredibly profound if you stop to think about it…exactly what an Oscar-winning lyric probably should be…
Even though those raindrops keep falling, in the course of a three minute song, The Sundance Kid works out that if things are going to change, he’s going to have to change and take the initiative to move his life in the direction he wants it to go.
He wants to settle down with Katharine Ross and leave his old life behind. And in that moment, he’s free…even though he knows he could be captured and jailed…or worse…it’s the realisation that, with Katharine Ross, he’s got everything he needs to make his life a happy one…
Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes
Will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me
’Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining
Because I’m free, nothing’s worrying me
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” was a well-deserved Oscar-winner. A single version by B. J. Thomas, who also recorded the vocal for the film score, reached the top of the US charts in 1970 and has a claim all of its own as the first US Number One of the 1970s.
And if raindrops seem to keep falling on your head, just remember that happiness is out there somewhere and sooner or later, in Hal David’s masterful words, it will step up to greet you too…
If you’ve got this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here…