Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by B.J. Thomas (Scepter, 1970)

This was the first song to hit #1 in the 70s and the first of 2 for Billy Joe Thomas. Written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David, it was written & recorded for the film, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Once you hear that opening ukulele lick, you immediately can visualize Paul Newman riding around on his bicycle. (What do you mean you haven’t seen this film? Put down your Twilight DVD and go out and rent it now!) In addition to spending the first month of 1970 on top, it also won an OScar for Best Song, a marked improvement over past winners, Born Free & If I Could Talk To the Animals.

B.J.’s mix of easy-going vocals with a hint of gruff soul made him the perfect singer for this song. And yet, he wasn’t the first choice. Supposedly Burt approached novelty singer Ray Stevens about singing it. Why? I don’t know. (Ray would have his first #1 later in the year with the ultra-serious, Everything Is Beautiful) It definitely wouldn’t have worked. And this is with Burt spending countless hours on set and watching dailies of the bike-riding scene writing music that would fit. And he thinks the guy who sang Ahab the Arab should sing Raindrops..?

Timing + Luck (+ Talent) = Success

The song, recorded and release at the end of 1969, sounds appropriately like a 60s tune. Even the fact that Bacharach & David were scoring a Western was kind of funny, given their pedigree of jazzy cocktail pop. But when it works, it works. And that’s why the singer matters. Lucky for BJ (Really? Couldn’t stick with Billy Joe?) that he recorded for the same label as Bach & David’s muse, Dionne Warwick or he might not have been given the chance.

By the way if you watch that scene and notice that the vocals sound different than on the 45, that’s because BJ recorded those while dealing with laryngitis, adding naturally a Western rasp to his vocals. When his throat was finally he recorded the version heard on the radio, which was a little smoother.

I’ve always dug this tune, especially the bridge. I just love the way it falls in to the song, even the 2nd time when Herb Alpert does his patented trumpet solo. And of course there’s the jazzy ‘slight return’ at the end. Betcha Jimmy Webb was jealous of its effective simplicity. Even the squares may have liked this one, I’m sure a line like ‘because I’m free. Nothing’s worryin’ me.‘ touched a nerve with everyone living through a turbulent time.

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4 Comments

  1. Hello!

    Ray can sing comedy and serious material. “Ahab the Arab” isn’t the only song Ray sang during the ’60s. The media labeled Ray a novelty artist even though he recorded a LOT of non-comical songs throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. If people were more aware of how good of a singer Ray is and seek out his serious work it wouldn’t be a surprise that Burt Bacharach would approach a “novelty singer” with the opportunity of recording a movie song.

    When Ray was approached with the song by Burt there were two reasons that prevented the recording. First, Ray wanted to change some of the lyrics. Secondly, he had a song on the verge of being released as a single and didn’t want to halt it’s release. This all took place in 1969 when Ray was on Monument Records. The song that was all ready to be released was his version of “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. Ray’s clean-cut image was in contrast with the song’s storyline and it wasn’t a commercial hit. That particular song, written by Kris Kristofferson, became a #1 hit for Johnny Cash in 1970. Meanwhile, as you mentioned, B.J. Thomas ended up recording “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and it became a #1 hit.

    Ray, in the end, wound up doing his version of “Raindrops…” and it appears on his “Everything Is Beautiful” album from 1970. Ray keeps the same arrangement, too.

    I have a fan-created blog page not affiliated with Ray Stevens called the Ray Stevens Music Journey for all those who want to discover the career and music of Ray Stevens. His career is still going strong, too. Nowadays he releases music videos on You Tube and has become an attraction at various conservative political events.

    Reply
  2. Good info….thanks for posting it. I’ll be sure to check out your blog.

    Reply
  3. B.J Thomas didn’t work because of Billy Joe Royal another singer successful at the time. I was curious about the name change as well. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Paul Fuhr aka "Ric Adams"

     /  December 25, 2013

    Thanks for the info. I was watching “looking for a friend for the end of the world” and Herb Alperts’ “This Guys in Love” was played. I thought, boy I’ll bet that was Herb on “Raindrops” too. I played it as a DJ on WAPE-Jacksonville in 1970….guess I still have a Good Ear ~grin
    Nice job on your site.

    Reply

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