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Come Rain or Come Shine (1946)

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Origin and Chart Information
“A reconstructed full-score recording of St. Louis Woman has become available as a result of the Manhattan City Center Theater Encores! Series.”

- JW

AKACome Rain or Shine
Rank 51
Music Harold Arlen
Lyrics Johnny Mercer

“Come Rain or Come Shine” was introduced by Ruby Hill and Harold Nicholas in the Broadway musical St. Louis Woman. Set in St. Louis in 1898, the story revolved around Della Green (Hill), a woman who wants out of her relationship with bar owner Biglow Brown (Rex Ingram) when she falls for Li’l Augie, (Nicholas), a jockey on a winning streak. The show opened on March 30, 1946, at the Martin Beck Theatre to lackluster reviews and attendance and closed after only 113 performances.


More on Ruby Hill at JazzBiographies.com

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St. Louis Woman was beset with problems before it even opened. Songwriter Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg had just scored two successes with Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s Wizard of Oz, for which they won an Academy Award for Best Song, and the long-running Broadway musical, Bloomer Girl (1944). Profiting from stakes in both productions, MGM was eager to back Arlen’s St. Louis Woman, an all-black show based on Arna Bontemps’ first published novel, God Sends Sunday (1931). MGM was further willing to provide Lena Horne as the leading lady, and Johnny Mercer signed on to write the lyrics. Lightning did not strike again. Author and critic Steven Suskin, in Playbill Online, comments,

Trouble arose before they even got out of the gate. The NAACP denounced the show for “offering roles that detract from the dignity of our race.” Horne withdrew, announcing that St. Louis Woman sets the Negro back one hundred years.”

Additional setbacks followed, including the death of the co-librettist and the dismissals of various cast and crewmembers.

In spite of its problems, St. Louis Woman did have the Arlen/Mercer score going for it. Pearl Bailey, in her extraordinary Broadway debut, sang the show-stopping “Legalize My Name” and “It’s A Woman’s Prerogative,” winning the Donaldson Award as the best newcomer of the year. Also included in the score were, “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Ridin’ on the Moon,” “And I Had Myself a True Love,” and of course, the jazz standard, “Come Rain or Come Shine.”

“Come Rain or Come Shine” became a modest hit during the show’s run, making the pop charts with a Margaret Whiting (Paul Weston and His Orchestra) recording rising to number seventeen, and, shortly after, a Helen Forrest and Dick Haymes recording rising to number twenty-three.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

More on Harold Arlen at JazzBiographies.com

More on Johnny Mercer at JazzBiographies.com

In Max Wilk’s They’re Playing Our Song: Conversations With America’s Classic Songwriters, Johnny Mercer is quoted as saying that finding the right mood for a song is the luckiest thing that can happen to a lyric-writer. Mercer goes on to characterize “Come Rain or Come Shine” as “a really simple way of saying ‘I love you’ ...the way a guy in a saloon would feel it.”

On the S. A. (Samuel Arlen) Music website for Harold Arlen, the lyrics are discussed further.

Harold played the tune for Johnny, the lyricist liked it and even came up with a fitting opening line, “I’m gonna love you, like nobody’s loved you,” after which he paused for a moment. Into the brief silence Arlen jokingly injected, “Come hell or high water...,” to which Mercer reacted by saying, “Of course, why didn’t I think of that - ‘Come rain or come shine.’”.

For those interested in hearing the full score of St. Louis Woman, there is a relatively recent recording available. In 1998 the City Center Theater in Manhattan revived St. Louis Woman, starring Vanessa Williams, as part of their Encores! Series. The score had to be reconstructed from second source material, as every bit of original orchestrated material had been lost. The cast recording is available on the Decca Broadway label, St. Louis Woman (1998 Encores!/City Center Cast).

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
Listening to Classic American Popular Songs
Yale University Press; Book & CD edition
Hardcover: 219 pages

(Forte devotes seven pages to the song, including its history and analyses of both the music and lyric. The lyrics are included in the book which also has a companion CD.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Wes Montgomery
Full House
1990 Original Jazz Classics 106
Original recording 1962
Generations of guitarists have been inspired by Montgomery’s work on this album, a live collaboration with saxophonist Johnny Griffin and the Wynton Kelly Trio with Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. The CD offers two takes of this remarkably swinging interpretation of “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
Modern Jazz Quartet
1994 Atlantic 82538

The Modern Jazz Quartet celebrated their 40th anniversary by making an album full of collaborations with a variety of guest artists. This cross-generational performance features a lyrical, understated performance by Branford Marsalis on soprano saxophone.

- Noah Baerman

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
1990, Blue Note 46516
Original recording, 1958
On this hard bop version of "Come Rain or Come Shine"' drummer Blakey gives the song the Messenger touch with Benny Golson's sax and Lee Morgan's trumpet coolly punctuating a dynamite Bobby Timmons piano solo.
Ray Charles
The Genius of Ray Charles
1990 Atlantic 1312
Original recording 1959
This is one of the most influential vocal performances of “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The soprano choir and string arrangements of Ralph Burns might dominate in other circumstances, but here they take a backseat to Ray’s knockout vocals and the subtle accompaniment of a small jazz ensemble. Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer gets in some particularly tasty licks.
Bill Evans Trio
Portrait in Jazz
2001, Riverside Records
Original recording, 1959
Pianist Bill Evans is his usual innovative self on this interpretation of the song. His playing is discordant yet sensitive as he reinvents the song with the help of bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.
Dinah Washington
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Collection, 1999, Recall

Vocalist Washington is all sass and confidence on this wonderful live version of the torch song classic.
Ella Fitzgerald
Arlen Songbook 2
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1960
Ella gives a slyly swinging performance here with the tasteful accompaniment of Billy May’s big band.
Art Pepper
Original recording 1960
Alto saxophonist Art Pepper's heart is on his sleeve as he delivers this deeply moving reading of the ballad. The emotion is genuine on this wistful track.
Joe Pass
Original recording 1978
Guitarist Pass and bassist Orsted Pedersen make it easy to forget that you are only listening to a duo. A subtle and delightful blues flavor permeates this slow-tempo performance.
Diane Schuur
1990, GRP 9540
Original recording, 1986
The album’s “Timeless” title describes the selections, the orchestral arrangements, and vocalist Schuur’s soaring soprano, which invests “Come Rain or Come Shine” with passion. Among the guest artists is Stan Getz.

- Ben Maycock

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