In 1979 when disco was hot, Paul Jabara, who had written the hits Last Dance and No More Tears for disco queen Donna Summer, conceived It’s Raining Men as a device to revive Summer’s career. He phoned 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!” The duo completed the song that afternoon.
It’s Raining Men’s tongue-in-cheek humour eventually unleashed a downpour of success. But Jabara first had to find a singer, because Donna Summer turned it down flat. Undeterred, Jabara recorded the song as an instrumental which he shopped to various high-profile singers until he found the perfect vocalists in Martha Wash and Izora Armstead, the proud plus-sized vocal duo Two Tons O’ Fun, who already had some disco hits under their belts.
Wash and Armstead, like Summer, were initially hesitant to record It’s Raining Men, Wash later telling “Huffington Post” that “We thought it was a crazy song — in fact, too crazy to record….He kept saying it was going to be a hit,” Wash said of Jabara’s conviction with a laugh, “And he was right.”
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) becoming a huge hit in the gay community, as Jabara had intended.
Produced by Jabara and Bob Esty, the recording was released in 1982 on the Columbia label, and as interest in it took off, Wash and Armstead renamed themselves The Weather Girls. By December, the infectious song was No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, featuring Wash’s powerful bluesy-gospelly delivery -- her voice in itself a virtual force of nature.
The campy music video, with young men in raincoats and skimpy briefs, also was successful on the new MTV, which had launched the previous year. In addition, It’s Raining Men reached No. 34 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hiphop chart and No. 46 on its Hot 100 chart.
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 No. 2, It’s Raining Men failed to chart nationally in Canada.
A second Billboard Dance No. 1 hit resulted when Martha Wash re-recorded the song as It’s Raining Men: The Sequel with drag queen Ru Paul in 1997. Fast forward to 2001 when Geri (formerly of the Spice Girls) Halliwell’s cover made No. 1 in the UK, France, Italy, Ireland and elsewhere, and No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales.
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.”
Grammy-winning pianist Paul Shaffer, born in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1949, is best known as the long-time band leader for TV’s David Letterman and as a performer on “Saturday Night Live.” 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.