“I Wish It Would Rain,” arguably the most morose Temptations song, was written by the recently departed Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, with lyrics provided by Roger Penzabene. Distraught after finding out his wife was cheating on him, Penzabene wrote of a man who’s locked himself inside, and hopes that “raindrops will hide my tears and no one will ever know that I’m crying when I go outside.” It was the #1 R&B single for three weeks in February and March of 1968. Sadly, Penzabene did not get to enjoy the success of the single, as he commit suicide on New Year’s Eve that year, apparently never able to overcome the end of his marriage.
The Temps version of the song, under the technical prowess of Whitfield, is a feat of production, replete with sound effects of birds flying in the sunny, torturous skies.
The Cougars, a Toronto group of Jamaican transplants in the late 1960s, did an amazing version of “I Wish It Would Rain,” which in my mind trumps the original, with a great organ intro and bass drum heartbeat plip-plopping like raindrops.
In 1972, New Orleans gospel singer-turned-secular soulman Johnny Adams released a single of “I Wish It Would Rain,” which became a favorite on DJ John Peel’s radio show. I was working in a music store in New Orleans when Adams died at the age of 66. Though he had brief national success in 1959, with the single “I Won’t Cry” with Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on the farfisa organ, he was much more successful on the local level. I remember many mourners buying his music after he died on cancer in 1998, his family burdened with medical bills, due to him being uninsured.
And from a female perspective, we have the inimitable Gladys Knight and The Pips taking a stab at the song. She wails on this one more than usual.
It’s a shame the Temps are lip-syncing here, but at least we get to see their fantastic moves.
There are more versions of the song, including a version by Marvin Gaye that’s the b-side to “Let’s Get It On,” but they’re lackluster compared to these.