The Temptations – “I Wish It Would Rain”

rain
The Temptations – “I Wish It Would Rain,” Pop # 4, R&B # 1

By Joel Francis

“I Wish It Would Rain” had been out less than two weeks when songwriter Roger Penzaben took his life on New Year’s Eve, 1967. The heartache and melancholy Temptation David Ruffin poured into his singing was Penzaben’s story.

In the spring of 1967, Penzaben caught his wife in an affair. Unable to cope with the pain and betrayal, Penzaben dumped his feelings into the lyrics. Producer Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who had previously teamed on Tempts’ classics EX.

The song opens with a few stately piano chords before Ruffin takes over. Backed only by a tambourine, it’s practically a cappella. Ruffin’s voice drips with so much sorrow that it’s hard to believe just three years prior he had “sunshine on a cloudy day.”

The understated strings and arrangement bear the hallmarks of Motown’s classic Holland-Dozier-Holland productions. It’s hard to believe that in less than a year, Whitfield and the Temps would be on the vanguard of the psychedelic soul movement.

It’s also hard to believe that “Rain” was Ruffin’s next-to-last single as a Temptation. Ruffin’s cocaine addiction and insistence that the group follow Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross’ leads and  be renamed “David Ruffin and the Temptations led to his firing in the summer of 1968. When the Temps again cracked the pop Top 10 with “Cloud Nine,” both Ruffin and Whitfield’s traditional arrangements were long gone.

Shortly before the Tempts debuted their psychedelic sound, Gladys Knight and the Pips took gave “Rain” an encore lap that reached Nos. 41 and 15 on the Pop and R&B charts, respectively. In 1973, Marvin Gaye recorded a funk version that was released as the b-side of his No. 1 hit “Let’s Get It On.” That same year, British slopsters The Faces had a U.K. hit with their interpretation. Aretha Franklin and hair metal band Little Caesar have also recorded versions of this miserable masterpiece.

3 thoughts on “The Temptations – “I Wish It Would Rain”

  1. Three of his songs sung by the TEMPTATIONS I have worn out playing.

    Just my opinion but I think that Roger wrote:

    “Your My Everything” as a Thank-You to GOD for giving him the talent he was able to express in song.
    If you listen to the words…and change the one word “Girl” to “Lord”, you’ll see what I mean. Obviously if “Lord” was used in the song, it wouldn’t have been as popular a tune in this venue of Pop Art.
    The 2nd song “I Can Never Love Another After Loving You” was his declaration of an undying Love
    that he hoped would return and never did.
    The 3rd song “I Wish It Would Rain” was a man’s desperate cry to the heavens for relief from a wife who cheated on him, sending him to the depths of dispair and eventual suicide.

    1. Thanks for reading, Danny. Several writers have noted the fine line between love songs and gospel numbers. I think the film Sister Act made this explicit when they changed the Mary Wells song “My Guy” to “My God.” Altering that one word completely transformed the song’s meaning.

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