The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF)has announced the song induction of "It’s Raining Men," one of the most iconic dance tracks that defined the disco era and transcended boundaries. The song was co-penned in 1979 by Paul Shaffer and Paul Jabara, whose trademark disco musicality made him the go-to songwriter of 70s and 80s, and hitmaker for Donna Summer among others. The zany concept of a deluge of men raining down from the heavens, led to "It’s Raining Men" (despite being written from a woman’s point of view and sung by The Weather Girls) becoming a huge hit in the gay community, as Jabara had intended; and its tongue-in-cheek playfulness eventually unleashed a downpour of mainstream success for years to come.
The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame will celebrate the song induction of "It’s Raining Men" with a virtual presentation to co-writer and Canadian icon Paul Shaffer, during Global’s The Morning Show airing Thursday, Feb. 25, that will include an exclusive performance by Shaffer, in honour of the late Paul Jabara.
“Of all the honours one can receive, recognition from one’s home country is the most meaningful. I know my late co-author, Paul Jabara, is proud of me as I thank the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame for auspiciously acknowledging our song, 'It’s Raining Men,'” says Shaffer.
“We’re thrilled to recognize 'It’s Raining Men' and its deserving place in Canadian history. Few songs can share the distinction of reaching number 1 on three or more occasions, and join the rare company of 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' and Leonard Cohen’s 'Hallelujah,' which the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted in 2006,” adds Vanessa Thomas, CSHF Executive Director. “It’s an audacious song that only the likes of Paul Shaffer and Paul Jabara could devise with their unmatched talent, exuberance, and distinctive humour.”
Jabara conceived the idea for "It’s Raining Men" in 1979 for disco queen Donna Summer, for whom he had written her other chart-topping hits, "Last Dance and No More Tears." He called upon the affable keyboardist Paul Shaffer, who had done some arranging for him, and invited him to compose the music. As Shaffer told the CBC, Jabara said, “You worked so hard as an arranger; I want you to write this one with me.” Shaffer enthusiastically responded, “I’ll be right over!” -- and the duo completed the song that afternoon.
Undeterred by the fact that true-believer Summer had turned down the song on the grounds of it being blasphemous, Jabara recorded it as an instrumental, which he shopped to various high-profile singers until he found the perfect vocalists in Martha Wash and Izora Armstead, of the appropriately-named vocal duo Two Tons O’ Fun, who already had some disco hits under their belts. Wash’s voice was a tour de force, and her powerful bluesy-gospel delivery took the song to new heights beyond pop, dance, and disco, into the R&B genre.
Produced by Jabara and Bob Esty, the recording for It’s Raining Men was released in 1982 on the Columbia label, and was an instant dance hit. By December, the infectious song was No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, in addition to reaching No. 34 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hiphop chart and No. 46 on its Hot 100 chart.
It was the song’s campy music video that propelled its success to the mainstream. Wash and Armstead had renamed themselves The Weather Girls, and the music video featured men in raincoats and skimpy briefs as they rained down during a weather forecast. The light-hearted video was perfectly suited for the new platform called MTV, which had just launched the previous year, to gain a whole new audience for the song.
Despite its rave success in the USA, where it was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo, and the UK where it peaked at number 2, "It’s Raining Men" failed to chart nationally in Canada. The song achieved its second Billboard Dance No. 1 hit when Martha Wash re-recorded "It’s Raining Men: The Sequel" with iconic drag queen RuPaul in 1997.
As Wash told the Huffington Post: “It’s just one of those songs where it’s fun for everybody. It’s definitely stood the test of time.”
Fast forward to 2001, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell released a cover of "It’s Raining Men" as the first single to her second solo album. The song made number one in the U.K., France, Italy, Ireland, and elsewhere, and number 11 on Billboard’s Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales.
"It’s Raining Men" will be added to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame’s permanent and interactive exhibition at the National Music Centre in Calgary, that features a celebrated catalogue of inducted songs that fans can listen to, as well as displays, exclusive artifacts, and one-of-a-kind memorabilia celebrating Canada’s greatest songwriters and songs.
Four-time EMMY nominee and Grammy-winning keyboardist Paul Shaffer, born in Toronto and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is best known as David Letterman’s sidekick and musical director for the record-setting 33-year-run of Late Show and Late Night With David Letterman, as a performer on the first five seasons of “Saturday Night Live,” and as the musical director of The Blues Brothers. A member of the Order of Canada, he has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Composer Paul Jabara (1948 – 1992) was born in New York City. He sang in such musicals as Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair. His song Last Dance earned a Grammy award, the Academy Award for Best Song, and a Golden Globe.
For more information, go to www.cshf.ca.
[Photo at top: L-R: Paul Shaffer & Paul Jabara. (Photo courtesy of the Paul Staffer Collection).]