The Day the Rains Came to CA, Mother Earth Smiled Again

If my dad, Carl Sigman, were around on the day the rains came to California last month in the midst of the worst drought the state has seen in centuries, he might have said, "Mother Earth smiled again."

That was exactly his observation in "The Day The Rains Came," a lyric he wrote nearly 60 years ago to a stirring melody by French composer Gilbert Becaud. Juilliard-trained warbler Jane Morgan recorded it in 1958 and it shot into the Top 20 in the US and went all the way to No. 1 in the UK. (Carl, ever the pessimist even about his most optimistic songs, would only go so far as to say that, airplay-wise, "the record made some noise.")

Carl's lyric expresses the gratitude many Golden Staters felt at the arrival of the storms, connecting the miracle of rain -- a "miracle much too deep to understand" -- with the magic of romantic love:

The day that the rains came down
Mother Earth smiled again
Now the lilacs could bloom
Now the fields could grow greener

The day that the rains came down
Buds were born, love was born
As the young buds will grow
So our young love will grow
Love, sweet love/Rain, sweet rain

We looked across the meadowland
And seemed to sense a kind of a miracle
Much too deep to understand
And there we were, so much in love

Granted, the farmers of California's Central Valley need far more rain for their crops to survive, much less thrive. Still, they might take a moment of comfort from this:

The day that the rains came down
Mountain streams swelled with pride
Gone the dry river bed
Gone the dust from the valley

Most rain songs are about heartbreak, "Singin' In The Rain" being one glorious exception. The Tempts wish it would rain not to ease a drought but to hide their tears; Dee Clark can't hide his tears, so he imagines they "must be raindrops falling from my eyes/For a man ain't supposed to cry"; the raindrops that keep fallin' on B.J. Thomas's head or raining in Annie Lennox's head "like a tragedy" are, well, a drag.

When Frank sings "Here's That Rainy Day," he's no happy camper and when Nat King Cole surveys "Come In Out Of The Rain," a 1947 song Carl wrote with Bob Russell, he's pointing away from the gloom of metaphorical precipitation. Merle Haggard's late '60s tune "The Day The Rains Came" (when I was about five I learned an important lesson at Carl's knee: "Ya can't copyright a title!") puts a damper on liquid sunshine with a southern gothic twist: "The day the rains came/I became your slave."

Jane Morgan worked with orchestra leader Art Mooney while still at Juilliard and then made a name for herself by trekking to Paris to sing American standards in perfect French. Her recording of "The Day The Rains Came" -- b-sided with the French version of Becaud's melody -- helped pave the way for her TV show, Spectacular: The Jane Morgan Hour in early 1959. Later that year, she took the stage with Louis Armstrong for a memorable reading of the song on a Timex-All-Star Jazz TV broadcast, backed by Les Brown and His Band of Renown.

Jane recorded a bunch of Carl's songs, notably a Burt Bacharach production of "What Now My Love," a Sigman/Becaud collaboration that uses water and sky imagery to evoke a near-suicidal despair: "What now my love/Now that it's over/I feel the world/Falling in on me/Here come the stars/Tumbling around me/Here's the sky, where the sea should be."

Carl first demoed "The Day the Rains Came" for Morgan and Kapp Records president Dave Kapp from the upright piano that faced the wall in Kapp's office. Singing his heart out with a voice he himself described as sounding like a Mack Truck, Carl had no idea how this unusual song went over until he turned and saw Jane's eyes filled with rain, I mean tears -- in this case tears of joy.