SOUL, FUNK, AND DISCO… Motown had released I Wish It Would Rain in 1967 sung by The Temptations, then, remade by Marvin Gaye in 1973. Both versions are sung just beautifully but when David Ruffin from The Temptations starts to sing, you instantly feel the pain and ache in his voice. This song is about how a man’s wife leaving him and is left heartbroken because ‘’a man ain’t supposed to cry’’, he constantly wishes it would rain throughout the song to hide his sorrow. Focusing in on the elements of how the song is produced, the popularity of the group/ artist before the song was released/ remade, and how they presented themselves while performing (choreography and style). These are the factors that represent why and how the song I Wish It Would Rain became a song loved by many.
Motown founded in 1950 by Berry Gordy created a crucial part of history. From classical hits like My Girl from The Temptations to What’s Going On from Marvin Gaye, written to either charm the girl of one’s dreams or from harsh social issues occurring at that time. Gordy once said ‘’… I wanted a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door an unknown and come out another a recording artist—a star.’’ (Keizer 46). Gordy and many others that were part of the Motown family gave kids from low-income families a chance to embrace and learn from the music industry. When a song was finally produced; before he released any song, himself and Smokey Robinson would gather key executives, songwriters, and producers known as quality control meetings and they would decide if the song had potential to soon become a hit for their record label (Santoro 34).
The Temptations were able to work with the lyrist Roger Penzabene of I Wish It Would Rain. Penzabene and producer Norman Whitfield gave the song life through the Temptations. There’s a settle opening with piano and bass guitar then followed by a simple humming with the sounds of seagulls in the background (giving the listener a picture of a sunny day at the beach) then a quick woo-woo by the rest of the members. The Temptations included David Ruffin as lead vocals, Paul Williams as secondary lead, Eddie Kendricks as tenor (a high singing voice), Melvin Franklin as bass (low sounding vocal range), and Otis Williams as baritone (vocals between tenor and bass), they harmonized just perfectly in this song, it gave the song texture. David Ruffin begins singing “Sunshine, blue skies PLEASE go away…’’ you begin to hear the ache in his voice. As he continues singing there is a defiant sound of a tambourine with light bass guitar playing in the background, but no matter how good the instrumental was in any song, it was the singer’s ache that shines more in a song (Keizer 34). As Ruffin continues singing “Let it rain” the drums come in quickly then followed by a violin, playing as one of the main instrument. Mashing up at the instruments that were well-played gave the song a more upbeat sound. ‘’Raindrops will hide my tear drops and no one will ever know that I’ve been cryin’ (Ruffin) cryin’ (Eddie Kendricks) cryin’ (Otis Williams), this is really the only part that you can hear some of the others’ voices in action sung individually. Finally has the song begins to fade introducing the sound of thunder symbolizing rain.
Marvin Gaye had a different approach, constant upbeat, strong vocals, but the same amount of soul but adding in his twist of funk. Although Penzabene had passed right before The Temptations version became a hit, Norman Whitfield was able to produce the remake. Gaye was given the opportunity to record with an orchestra rather than the Funk Brothers (Motown’ musicians) that correspond just fine with his voice (Ault 15). As the song is fast paced compared to the original there are more instrumental solos. Although I enjoy listening to this song, it’s the ache in their voice that really gets me into the music, but sadly Gaye couldn’t bring that to the table (Keizer 58). Marvin Gaye sang this song nicely but the only credit I would give him is his unique and new version if the song. There was just no emotional drive in his voice but more of a message of asking for the impossible. Gaye at the time didn’t have the passion to see about love it was more about the exploding racial issues, the upbeat songs that caught others attention (Keizer 51).
Groups tend to have more of a choreographed performance when on stage. The Temptations were known for their image of smooth and precise dance moves (thanks to Cholly Atkins), class and stylish suits (Keizer 49). David Ruffin as lead vocal usually has more room to improvise while singing. He would casually walk off stage singing to one lucky girl in the audience, which made them go crazy. While touring, family/ friend gatherings, and as well in the studio The Temptations constantly practiced improving their dance moves.
Marvin Gaye was the iconic sex symbol of Motown so just standing on stage with that beautiful voice of his didn’t really harm the audience he would perform for (Keizer 54). Gaye also had more leg room to improvise on stage for his audience. But his signature stance was sitting behind the piano. He enjoyed that
engagement with his band members and his fans.
I wish it would rain was release in 1967 but didn’t become a hit until the following year 1968. Between 1964 to 1967 the Temptations had 18 hits on the R&B Charts and 6 of those were #1 hits. I Wish It Would Rain became the 7th #1 hit in 68’. At this time ¾ songs Motown released became a hit and after this song gain fame, Motown covered ½ of the nation’s top 10 music charts (Keizer 44). Meaning that 70% of Motown’s listeners were in fact white. Even though Motown was solely made up of all blacks, it caught the ears of white Americans, usually based on the younger crowd (Keizer 46).
I Wish It Would Rain hitting the charts at #1 in 1968 was just so good that Marvin Gaye had to do a remake in 73’. But Gaye just couldn’t match up to an original Temptations song at the end of it all. Marvin Gaye hit the charts 42 times from 1961 till 1973 when he remade I Wish It Would Rain. 9 of those songs were #1 hits on the R&B Charts.
I Wish It Would Rain is and will always be one of The Temptations classic hits while they were signed to Motown records. With the top producers, songwriters, and choreographers all playing a part, this song had to hit the R&B and U.S. charts at #1. Both versions of this song will no doubt get you out of your seat and turn up the volume, singing alone like no other, but its the Temptations: class, percision, and stylish suits, but most importantly the voices that combine just perfectly together to give it that soul that we die for when we listen to that playlist titled “Oldies BUT DEFINITELY Goodies’’!
Keizer, Garret. “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone.” Virginia Quarterly Review, vol. 89, no. 4, Fall 2013, pp. 44-59.
Santoro, Gene. “Sweet Soul Music.” Nation, vol. 276, no. 2, 13 Jan. 2003, pp. 33-40.
Ault, Susanne. “Funk Brothers Finally Get Their Due Onstage.” Billboard, vol. 115, no. 16, 19 Apr. 2003, p. 15.