What Have They Done To The Rain

Album: We Shall Overcome (1962)
  • Due to the nature of some of her recordings, it is not too surprising that Joan Baez has been subjected to more censorship than most singer-songwriters. In her book And A Voice To Sing With she relates how when she appeared in Japan, the American Embassy pressured her interpreter to alter the meanings of any political statements she made in her songs.

    "What Have They Done To The Rain" - the questionmark is optional - was an obvious target for such tampering. Any unknowing person might think this was a metaphor for love lost, growing old, or something of that nature, but the song is to be taken literally. A typical Joan Baez protest song, it was in fact written by a folk singer from an earlier generation.

    Although she is nowhere near as well known as Baez, Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978) is an influential figure in the movement, and her composition - originally called "Rain Song" - was written in 1962 as part of the anti-nuclear campaign. In 1967, when Baez toured Japan, nuclear fall out was a big issue, and of course anything nuclear was and remains a very touchy subject in Japan especially when it has an American connection, in view of the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When her concert of January 27 was televised, her references to these fateful cities were edited out.
  • "What Have They Done To The Rain" is probably the best known of Malvina Reynolds' compositions, and is certainly one of the most widely recorded. It was covered by The Searchers in 1964, where, running to 2 minutes 33 seconds, backed by "This Feeling Inside" and released on the Pye label, it reached #13 in the UK singles chart.

    It has also been recorded by Marianne Faithfull; the Baez recording - which is probably the best as well as the most well known - was used for the soundtrack of the 1991 film Dogfight. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2

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