Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

Help support this site! Consider clicking an ad from time to time. Thanks!


Fire and Rain

First single release by R.B. Greaves (US #82 April 1970).
Also released by Johnny Rivers (US #94 August 1970).
Other hit version by James Taylor (US #3/MOR #7/CAN #2/UK #42 September 1970).

“Like a shy kid at a prom dance, ‘Fire and Rain’ had stood on the sidelines all year [after being first recorded in December 1969], waiting for its moment. In the spring, Warner Brothers had hesitated to release the song to radio. With its subdued tone and elliptical lyrics, it wasn’t an odds-on favorite to be a hit … The label also hesitated when soul singer R.B. Greaves, who’d had a major hit the year before with ‘Take a Letter, Maria’, released a cover of ‘Fire and Rain’. No one wanted [James] Taylor competing against his own song.

“Yet ‘Fire and Rain’, a regular part of Taylor’s set on the road, was making inroads with his audiences; its understated vulnerability, uncluttered melody, and easy-to-follow metaphors drew them in. When L.A. pop star Johnny Rivers unveiled another cover of the song in August [1970] – this one a lavish production with horns and female backup singers – Warners had no choice but to promote Taylor’s own version. ‘Finally,’ announced an ad in the music press, ‘the original (and, we think, best) ‘Fire and Rain’ is now a single.’

“… Since [Taylor’s previous single] ‘Sweet Baby James’ hadn’t made the charts, expectations were modest; true enough, ‘Fire and Rain’ debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at number 100. It didn’t stay there long.”

Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970, David Browne, 2012

Johnny Rivers, “Fire and Rain” (1970):

James Taylor, “Fire and Rain” (1970):

Comments are closed.