What: Ann Peebles' delicate 1973 chartbuster "I Can't Stand the Rain," performed by many artists, but none as delightfully as Eruption in their awesome 1978 bug suits:
Why: This is the third of my couldn't-miss-if-you-tried trio of song subjects, the first being the moon and the second being trains. Songwriters daily thank the gods for Seasonal Affective Disorder, for songs about rain hit upon feelings we develop before we can talk. That first giant raindrop that hit your tiny head and sent you screaming back into the house returns when you hear the pitter-patter of a song about rain. On "I Can't Stand the Rain," Ann Peebles and her co-writers Don Bryant and Bernard Miller channeled that terror in the timbales and minor-key horns of her original soulful dirge. Five years later, Eruption stripped out the unease of the original for a wholly different disco sound, making the rain a harder keyboard drive. Either way, the rain signature pounds into your brain, making you remember that bad day you waited for that call while watching the windows streak with water. That was a day you'll never forget, and never want to.
Impact: It was the next cover version to hit the charts, Tina Turner's 1983 powerhouse cover on Private Dancer, that exposed most of the world to Peebles' classic. Propelled by the greatest voice (on the greatest pair of legs) the music world has ever produced, Turner moved the song into the pantheon. Then Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott remodeled the pantheon's walls entirely on her visually arresting 1997 breakthrough "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)", which sampled Peebles' original vocal. It's rare to have a song with four hit versions that sound so radically different, and all so original.
Personal Connection: I grew up an only child in Seattle, and spent a lot of time silently looking out water-streaked windows. As a result, I can stand the rain. I don't wear rain hats, carry umbrellas, or cancel picnics. If the air is dry, I think there's something wrong; if the sun is beating down, I think there's something wrong with everyone who wants to go outside. I am a rainchild, and will always be. This song makes me think of happy things.
Other Contenders: Billie Holliday's rain is a similarly oppressive reminder of loneliness in her live "Stormy Weather"; The Beatles' rain is a trifling inconvenience in Ringo's signature song, "Rain"; The Doors' rain is a gentle tattoo in a dark world in "Riders on the Storm"; The Alarm's rain is a treasured respite from the heat in "Rain in the Summertime"; Guns 'N Roses' rain is a histrionic destroyer of bliss in "November Rain"; John Hiatt's rain is a reason for cuddling closer in "Feels Like Rain"; Stevie Ray Vaughan's rain is a Texas flood of negative emotion in "Couldn't Stand the Weather"; Bambi's rain is a Vivaldian intimation of one little fawn's insignificance in "Little April Shower".