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'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head:' Song Meaning, History, & Lyrics

Music | January 3, 2020

Paul Newman (1925 - 2008), as Butch Cassidy, and Katharine Ross as Etta Place, in a promotional still for 'Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid', directed by George Roy Hill, 1969. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid is a classic western and buddy movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford -- but why, exactly, does it feature the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" by BJ Thomas? There's plenty of action in the movie, and the handsome stars look good; there's even a faint love story between Sundance (Redford) and the character of Etta, played by Katharine Ross. In the middle of this movie about two outlaws there's an extended scene in which Newman, Redford and Ross clown around as "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" plays. The song has an old-fashioned feel to it, though not old enough to be period-appropriate for the turn-of-the-century story. Despite its squareness, "Raindrops" went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970, and was the fourth-biggest single of 1970.

Like A Nursery Rhyme Played On A Ukulele

Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Source: (mentalfloss)

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” is so odd that it's almost a novelty song. It begins with some cheerful ukulele strumming, then jumps right into lyrics that sound like a nursery rhyme:

Raindrops are falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling

So I just did me some talking to the sun
And I said I didn't like the way he got things done
He's sleeping on the job
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep fallin'

But there's one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me
Won't defeat me
It won't be long 'till happiness steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red
Crying's not for me
'Cause, I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me

It won't be long 'till happiness steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red
Crying's not for me, 'cause,
I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me

A Slightly Puzzling Hit

BJ Thomas who sang the chart topping hit. Source: (vocal.media.com)

The lyrics reflect an optimism about life. It is about remaining positive in spite of the negative things that you are facing, a song particularly important in the face of some of the coming challenges of the 1970s. It can also be an anthem to living worry free despite the challenges of the world.

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Bacharach initially offered the song to Ray Stevens, who was known for novelty hits, but Stevens passed on it because he didn’t understand the song. BJ Thomas was the next to be offered the song, and he took it, puzzled that anyone would turn down a song that was going to be featured in a Paul Newman film.

The song was the breakout hit from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the revisionist Western. The combination of Newman and Redford, with an Oscar winning script, and especially Bacharach’s unconventional score for the film led the film to becoming the biggest box office hit of 1969. The soundtrack was appropriate for the film as it too was subversive.

They Just Didn't Get It

The scene that featured the song. Source: (pinterest)

During the movie, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" plays as a musical interlude when we see Butch Cassidy (Newman) taking Etta (Katharine Ross) for a ride on his new bicycle. The director, George Roy Hill filmed the sequence with Simon & Garfinkle’s 'The Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)" to give Bacharach a sense of what he was looking for. The song played over the dialogue-less scene. Bacharach said that, as he was watching the scene, he kept hearing the ukulele. He put “dummy” lyrics in and they stuck. The song took multiple takes and Thomas’ voice cracked during the recording because he was dealing with laryngitis.

The board at 20th Century Fox did not appreciate the song, and neither did Robert Redford, who noted that rain was not falling in the scene where the music played. But George Roy Hill insisted the song stay.

The Label That Released It Was An Unlikely Success Too

The label that released it. Source: (pinterest)

“Raindrops” was released on Scepter Records, the label created by Florence Greenberg. Greenberg was a bored housewife whose husband worked for Hill and Range publishers in New York. She got the idea to start her own label while hanging out in a restaurant downstairs from Hill and Range. She started Tiara, which she sold to Decca Records. With the proceeds, she started Scepter in 1959. In the early ‘60s, Bacharach became a sort of mentor for her, and her label had some success before it closed in 1976.

The Legacy

The scene in The Simpsons where it played. Source: (youtube)

“Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head” was played in Spider Man 2 (2004), Boys on the Side (1995), Clockwatchers (1997)  and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002).  In Forrest Gump (1994), it played in the background as Richard Nixon presented Gump with yet another award.  In Spy Hard (1996), the scene from Butch Cassidy was parodied.   It has even made its way into cartoons making an appearance in episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Futurama.

Tags: BJ Thomas | Burt Bacharach | Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid | George Roy Hill | Paul Newman | Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head | Robert Redford | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!