Fire and Rain (song)
|"Fire and Rain"|
|Single by James Taylor|
|from the album Sweet Baby James|
|Recorded||December 1969 |
|Genre||Soft rock, folk rock|
|James Taylor singles chronology|
"Fire and Rain" is a folk rock song written and performed by James Taylor and released on Warner Bros. Records as a single from his second album, Sweet Baby James, in August 1970. The song follows Taylor's reaction to the suicide of Suzanne Schnare, a childhood friend, and his experiences with drug addiction and fame. After its release, "Fire and Rain" peaked at number two on RPM's Canada Top Singles chart and at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Background and composition
On the VH1 series Storytellers, Taylor said the song was about several incidents during his early recording career. The second line "Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you" refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who died by suicide while he was in London, England, recording his first album. In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band the Flying Machine to coalesce (the lyric "Sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground"; the reference is to the name of the band rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored). Taylor completed writing the song while in rehab.
- The first part was about Taylor's friend Suzanne, who died while Taylor was in London working on his first album after being signed to Apple Records. Friends at home, concerned that it might distract Taylor from his big break, kept the tragic news from him, and he found out six months later.
- The second part details Taylor's struggle to overcome drug addiction and depression.
- The third part deals with coming to grips with fame and fortune, looking back at the road that got him there. It includes a reference to James Taylor and The Flying Machine, a band he briefly worked with before his big break with Paul McCartney, Peter Asher, and Apple Records.
Carole King played piano on the song. Drummer Russ Kunkel used brushes rather than sticks on his drum kit, and Bobby West played double bass in place of a bass guitar to "underscore the melancholy on the song".
Taylor references the song in another of his compositions, "That's Why I'm Here," title track from his 1985 album, in which he writes, "Fortune and fame's such a curious game. Perfect strangers can call you by name. Pay good money to hear 'Fire and Rain' again and again and again."
Broadcast Music, Inc. ranked "Fire and Rain" at number 82 on its "Top 100 Songs of the Century" list, while voters for the National Endowment for the Arts and Recording Industry Association of America's Songs of the Century list, which comprises 365 songs of "historical significance" recorded from 1900 to 2000, placed "Fire and Rain" at number 85. In April 2011, the song was named at number 227 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs of all time.
Taylor performs the song on The Simpsons in the episode "Deep Space Homer." While singing the song for a group of astronauts (including Homer Simpson and Buzz Aldrin), he changes the lyric "Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground" to "Sweet dreams and flying machines, flying safely through the air" when he realizes the space shuttle may crash.
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100 ||67|
|U.S. Cash Box ||85|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
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