Fire and Rain
|"Fire and Rain"|
|Single by James Taylor|
|from the album Sweet Baby James|
|B-side||"Anywhere Like Heaven" (US) & "Sunny Skies" (UK)|
|Recorded||December, 1969 at Sunset Sound|
|James Taylor singles chronology|
"Fire and Rain" is a folk rock song written and performed by James Taylor. Appearing on his second album, Sweet Baby James, it attracted widespread attention. The album was released in February 1970, with the song being released as a single that month. "Fire and Rain" quickly rose to number three on the Billboard hot 100 charts. It was soon covered by Anne Murray, on her album Honey, Wheat and Laughter, also in 1970.
Moody and introspective, "Fire and Rain" became something of a prototype for the singer-songwriter genre that would boom in the few years following its release. Its apocalyptic imagery proved provocative to would-be interpreters. The sparse arrangement, centered on Taylor's ringing acoustic guitar figures, came to represent Taylor's signature sound, and was influential among other performers. Carole King is the pianist on the song.
Origin of the song
Taylor has related different versions of what the song is about.
In a BBC interview he said the song chronicled his experiences in mental institutions, such as his stay in McLean Hospital in Massachusetts as a senior in high school, and the suicide of a friend. The fire in the song refers to his shock therapy. Rain is the cold showers that follow shock therapy.
On the VH1 series Story Tellers, Taylor said the song was actually about several incidents during his early recording career. The second line of the song, "Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you," refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who committed suicide while he was away recording his first album. In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band The Flying Machine to coalesce (the lyric "sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground"; the reference is to the name of the band rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored).
As he was wondering what to do with himself, Schnerr's death drove him to see beyond his own worries and realize the transience of life and his need to get back to his old friends. In other interviews, Taylor said a battle with drug addiction figured into the song.
- The first part was indeed about Taylor's friend Suzanne, who died while Taylor was in London working on his first album after being signed to Apple Records. Friends at home, concerned that it might distract Taylor from his big break, kept the tragic news from him, and he only found out six months later.
- The second part details Taylor's struggle to overcome drug addiction and depression.
- The third part deals with coming to grips with fame and fortune, looking back at the road that got him there. It includes a reference to James Taylor and The Flying Machine, a band he briefly worked with before his big break with Paul McCartney, Peter Asher, and Apple Records.
Before Taylor gave the interviews explaining the origins of the song, some fans thought that the song referred to an airplane crash that had killed someone close to Taylor, because they interpreted "flying machines in pieces on the ground" literally rather than interpret it as a reference to Taylor's first band.
When introducing the song during a live concert in Madrid (July 28, 2009) Taylor publicly said that he composed "Fire and Rain" in 1968 during a stay in the Spanish island of Formentera, which he jokingly defined as a place (then) "full of goats and drug smugglers".
Many artists have recorded cover versions of "Fire and Rain" in a number of genres, including:
- Taylor sang this on The Simpsons episode Deep Space Homer with slightly altered lyrics.
- Al Jarreau - Jazz singer Al Jarreau on his album Glow.
- Anne Murray on her album Snowbird.
- Badlands on the 1991 album Voodoo Highway and live during the subsequent tour.
- Birdy on her eponymous debut album Birdy.
- Blood, Sweat & Tears on their album Blood, Sweat & Tears 3.
- Bobby Darin on his album Live! At the Desert Inn.
- Bobby Womack - Rhythm and blues and soul singer Bobby Womack on his album Communication.
- Boots Randolph - Saxophonist Boots Randolph on his album Boots With Brass.
- Cher on her album Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves.
- Cliff Richard on his album Help It Along.
- Dido - Pop singer Dido on the album Sounds Eclectic: The Covers Project (2007).
- Herb Alpert - Trumpeter Herb Alpert on his album Lost Treasures.
- Hubert Laws - Jazz flautist Hubert Laws on his album Afro-Classic.
- Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Heavy Metal band Jack Starr's Burning Starr covered the song on the 1986 No Turning Back album
- Jimmy Fallon performed a parody called "Romney & Bain" after the 2012 Democratic and Republican conventions. 
- John Denver on his album Poems, Prayers, and Promises.
- Johnny Rivers on his 1971 album Home Grown.
- Jonathan Butler - Jazz guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler covered the song on his album Jonathan
- Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds - R&B singer Babyface covered the song on his album Playlist
- Linda Thompson - Folk singer Linda Thompson on her album Give Me a Sad Song.
- Lou Rawls - Soul, jazz and blues singer Lou Rawls on his album A Man of Value.
- Marcia Hines recorded the song as her debut single in 1975, and performed it live on cable TV as a duet with Jimmy Barnes in 2009
- Marsyas (Oskar Petr, Petr Kalandra, Zuzana Michnova) recorded the song as Slunce a dest (Sun and Rain) in 1982 (album Kousek prizne)
- Maynard Ferguson - Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson on his eponymous album Maynard Ferguson.
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Punk music band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes on their album Have a Ball.
- Nana Mouskouri on her album Nana's Book of Songs.
- Ole gustav Johnsen - NorwegianX-Factor competitor Ole gustav Johnsen covered the song on 2010 X-Factor album.
- Phil Upchurch - Jazz guitarist Phil Upchurch on his album Darkness, Darkness.
- Richie Havens - Folk singer Richie Havens on his album The Great Blind Degree.
- Rick Wakeman - Progressive rock keyboard player Rick Wakeman on his album Piano Vibrations.
- Rigmor Gustafsson - Swedish jazz singer Rigmor Gustafsson on her album "I Will Wait for You" (2003).
- Roger Whittaker on his album Fire and Rain.
- Sammy Kershaw - Country music singer Sammy Kershaw on his album Covers the Hits.
- The Gaylads - Reggae artists The Gaylads on their album Fire and Rain.
- The Isley Brothers on their album Givin' It Back.
- Tony Orlando - on his 1980 album "Livin' For The Music".
- Willie Nelson - Country icon Willie Nelson's 1975 cover reached the top thirty on the U.S. country singles charts.
- Mina recorded and released the song on her 2012 album 12 (American song book).
- Pink covered the song on the European leg of her Truth About Love Tour.
- White, Timothy (2001). James Taylor: James Taylor, His Life and Music. London: Omnibus. p. 5. ISBN 0-7119-8803-X
- "James Taylor Sings "Romney & Bain" ("Fire & Rain" Parody) - Jimmy Fallon".
- "Jonathan overview". Allmusic.com.
- "Rick Braun, Dave Koz and Gerald Albright on Jonathan Butler CD". SmoothVibes.com.