Stormy Weather (song)

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For other songs of similar name, see Stormy Weather.
Stormy Weather on tenor saxophone

"Stormy Weather" is a 1933 song written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Ethel Waters first sang it at The Cotton Club night club in Harlem in 1933 and recorded it that year, and in the same year it was sung in London by Elisabeth Welch and recorded by Frances Langford. It has since been performed by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Clodagh Rodgers, and Reigning Sound and most famously by Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. Leo Reisman's orchestra version had the biggest hit on records (with Arlen himself as vocalist), although Ethel Waters's recorded version also sold well.[citation needed] "Stormy Weather" was featured in the 1943 movie of the same name.

The song tells of disappointment, as the lyrics, "Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky", show someone pining for her man to return. The weather is a metaphor for the feelings of the singer: "stormy weather since my man and I ain't together, keeps raining all the time."

The original handwritten lyrics, along with a painting by Ted Koehler, were featured on the (US) Antiques Roadshow on 24 January 2011, where they were appraised for between $50,000 and $100,000. The lyrics show a number of crossings out and corrections.[1]

Ethel Waters's recording of the song in 1933 was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003, and the Library of Congress honored the song by adding it to the National Recording Registry in 2004.

Other versions[edit]

  • Frances Langford recorded the song in 1933.
  • Duke Ellington recorded an instrumental version of the song in 1933 and another version with singer Ivie Anderson in 1940.[2] He also featured a vocal version with Ivy (aka Ivie) Anderson in his 1933 Paramount short film Bundle of Blues.[3]
  • Lena Horne first recorded the song in 1941 for RCA Victor. In 1943, she recorded another version of Stormy Weather for the movie of the same name (which she made while on loan to 20th Century Fox from MGM). Horne recorded the song at least five times throughout her career. Horne's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.[4] In 1984, this version of the song was made into a music video on D-TV, featuring clips from the Disney cartoon The Old Mill and the Pastoral Symphony scene from Fantasia.
  • Connee Boswell recorded the song for Decca on July 8, 1941 with Victor Young's Orchestra.
  • Kay Starr recorded the song in 1945. Backing Kay Starr (vocals) were the King Cole Trio — Nat King Cole (piano), Oscar Moore (guitar), John Kirby (bass) with assistance from Max Roach (drums), Bill Coleman (trumpet), Buster Bailey (clarinet), Benny Carter (alto saxophone, arranger) and Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone), Recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA.
  • Shirley Bassey recorded the song in 1956 and it appeared on the B-side of her first single "Burn My Candle (At Both Ends)" released on the Philips record label.
  • Lou Rawls recorded one version in the 1970s.
  • Frank Sinatra recorded three studio versions of the song; the first as a single for Columbia in the 1940s, the second, in 1959 for the album No One Cares, and lastly, in 1984 for the album L.A. Is My Lady.
  • Glenn Miller recorded a version on V-Disc, No. 91A, which was issued in January 1944 by the U.S. War Department featuring the AAFTC Orchestra.
  • Ella Fitzgerald's interpretation can be found on her Verve release "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook"
  • Olga Guillot recorded a Spanish-language version of the song.
  • Billie Holiday recorded a version of the song on July 27, 1952, in New-York. It was released on a 7-inch album with the B-side "Don't Explain", and has since been included on many anthologies.
  • In 1952, R&B group The Five Sharps recorded "Stormy Weather" for Jubilee Records, and test pressings were made. The master was later lost (either to fire or flood; sources vary), and only three extant original pressings (all on 78 RPM) are known to exist (although original 45 RPM issues on Jubilee are still, currently 56 years later [2008], rumored to exist). In the 1960s, Jubilee released a rock-and-roll recording, by a different group, with label attribution to the Five Sharps; this version holds little interest to collectors. All known 45 RPM copies of the 1952 version bearing the Jubilee label (as well as a 1972 reissue on Bim Bam Boom records) have been bootlegged from one of the three known 78 copies (a cracked copy, whose crack is audible on all reissues). A version similar to the original Five Sharps recording was also recorded and released in the 1960s by a New York based group, the Five Sharks.
  • Judy Garland recorded a studio version of the song for her "London Sessions" with Capitol. Most notable is her live performance of the song recorded for the Grammy Award-winning album Judy At Carnegie Hall.
  • Django Reinhardt performed this song, and it can be found on the album Keep Cool: Guitar Solos (1950–1953).
  • In August 1958, the R&B doo-wop group The Spaniels recorded an uptempo jump styled version of the song.
  • Sarah Vaughan recorded the song on her 1960 album Dreamy.
  • Etta James recorded the song in 1961 on her debut album At Last!.
  • Earl Grant instrumental version from his 1961 album Ebb Tide And Other Instrumental Favorites.
  • In the last sequence of Derek Jarman's The Tempest (1979), a film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play, the singer / actress Elisabeth Welch, appearing as 'a goddess', sings the song; which she had taken as her signature tune since 1933.
  • On-U Sound supergroup New Age Steppers has a reggae cover on their third album titled Foundation Steppers (1983) with Ari Up on the vocals.
  • Industrial/hip-hop group Tackhead released a cover of the song as a 12-inch single under their Fats Comet alias in 1985.
  • Viola Wills covered the song in 1982, it peaked at number four on the dance charts.[5]
  • Rock star Jeff Lynne (of Electric Light Orchestra fame) recorded a cover of the song on his 1990 solo album Armchair Theatre.
  • Rest Assured recorded a cover of the song in 1993 to coincide with the song's 60th birthday although somewhat different from the original due to the use of samples and a rap. It was produced by Harry Sutcliffe.
  • Toots Thielemans recorded this song with Oleta Adams in 2006 for his album One More for the Road.
  • Reigning Sound This song which opens their 2002 album Time Bomb High School.
  • Chelsea Krombach recorded a cover of the song in her second jazz album Profile, released in 2004.
  • Royal Crown Revue Recorded in their 1998 album "the contender", the RCR gave this little ditty a shuffle feel.
  • Joni Mitchell sang the song for AT&T Corporation's 1998 concert for the benefit of the Walden Woods Project and the Thoreau Institute.
  • Keller Williams released a live version of the song on his 2005 DVD Sight.
  • Performing at Carnegie Hall, The London Palladium and The Hollywood Bowl, Martha Wainwright guested to brother, Rufus Wainwright, for his Rufus, Rufus, Rufus Does Judy, Judy, Judy concert, a recreation of Judy Garland's celebrated 1961 concert of the same venue.
  • LaKisha Jones sang this song during her course of American Idol in 2007 under the guidance of Tony Bennett.
  • Kree Harrison sang this song during her course of American Idol in 2013 under the guidance of Harry Connick, Jr..
  • In the first season of The Muppet Show, Wayne and Wanda (a recurring duet couple) tried to sing the song, but as with most of their attempts to perform, it ends with slapstick violence. Because copyright licensing was not available, however, the segment does not appear on the DVD release.
  • The radio program Marketplace uses "Stormy Weather" as background music when the major stock market indices are down for the day.[6]
  • Joe Sample recorded an instrumental version of this song on his 1993 album Invitation.
  • Wayne Hancock covers the song on his South Austin Sessions album.
  • Chaka Khan covers the song on her ClassiKhan album.
  • 15 year-old Gitte Haenning recorded the song in 1961 on the Danish HMV Label (X 8439).
  • The German a cappella group (cf. Doo-Wop) Comedian Harmonists recorded their version of this song, "Ohne Dich", in German in Sep. 4, 1933 (Berlin). They further made a version in French language, "Quand il pleut", recorded Sep. 7, 1933 (Fechner, Eberhard (1988). Die Comedian Harmonists. Sechs Lebensläufe (in German). Weinheim: Quadriga. ISBN 3-88679-174-2. ).
  • The Chicago punk group, the Smoking Popes, recorded their version of this song, in 2001.
  • Michael Crawford recorded this song for his 1993 album A Touch of Music in the Night.
  • In around October/November 1960 it was recorded on the Candid LP "Mingus" with Charles Mingus on bass, Ted Curson on Trumpet, Danny Richmond on drums and Eric Dolphy on alto sax. It is an instrumental track.
  • Imelda May recorded a cover version in her album Jump Jack Jump when singing with Blue Harlem
  • Sylvia Brooks recorded this song for her 2012 album Restless
  • Buena Vista Social Club recorded a variation of the theme of Stormy Weather under the name Pueblo Nuevo.


In popular culture[edit]

The music of the song appears in the film "All About Eve" (1950). It is played on the piano at the party when Margo is going upstairs.

It also appears periodically in Federico Fellini´s film, Amarcord (1973).

A section from Stormy Weather was referenced by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden through their song "Revelations" off of their album Piece Of Mind.

The alternative rock band Cake mentions the song by name in their song Frank Sinatra, "while Frank Sinatra sings Stormy Weather."[7]

Further reading[edit]

  • The chapter "Stormy Weather" in the book Stardust Melodies: The Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs by Will Friedwald (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002).


  1. ^ Antiques Roadshow 24 January 2011
  2. ^ A Duke Ellington Panorama
  3. ^ Stratemann, Dr. Klaus (1992). Duke Ellington Day by Day and Film by Film. Copenhagen: JazzMedia ApS. pp. 59–64. ISBN 87-88043-34-7. 
  4. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 281. 
  6. ^ Marketplace FAQ from its website
  7. ^

External links[edit]