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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

More on Harold Nicholas at JazzBiographies.com

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

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