Malvina Reynolds: Song Lyrics and Poems  



What Have They Done to the Rain?

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 as "Rain Song" then in 1964 as "What Have They Done to the Rain" by Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990. a.k.a. "Rain Song" and "Just a Little Rain." People now think of this as a song about acid rain, but it was originally written as part of a campaign to stop aboveground nuclear testing, which was putting strontium-90 in the air, where it was washed down by the rain, got into the soil and thence to the grass, which was eaten by cows. When children drank the cowsí milk the strontium-90, chemically similar to calcium but radioactive, was deposited in their bones. Mothers saved their childrenís baby teeth and sent them in to be tested by scientists who indeed found elevated levels of strontium-90 in their teeth. A year after this song was written, President Kennedy signed the treaty against aboveground testing.


Just a little rain falling all around,
The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound,
Just a little rain, just a little rain,
What have they done to the rain?

Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years.
And the grass is gone,
The boy disappears,
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,
And what have they done to the rain?

Just a little breeze out of the sky,
The leaves pat their hands as the breeze blows by,
Just a little breeze with some smoke in its eye,
What have they done to the rain?

Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years.
And the grass is gone,
The boy disappears,
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,
And what have they done to the rain?


Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:
---- Little Boxes and Other Handmade Songs
---- The Malvina Reynolds Songbook
---- There's Music in the Air: Songs for the Middle-Young

Other place(s) where the music to this song appears:
---- Alleluya! 77 Songs for Thinking People (London: A. & C. Black, 1980)
---- Peter Blood and Annie Patterson: Rise Up Singing: The Group-Singing Song Book [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1992)
---- Peter and Annie Blood-Patterson: Winds of the People [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Sing Out, 1980?)
---- Peter Blood-Patterson: Rise Up Singing: The Group-Singing Song Book [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1988), p. 39
---- Broadside No. 38 (20 January 1964)
---- Broadside No. 106 (April-May 1970)
---- For the Beauty of the Earth; An Environmental Songbook (Mendham, NJ: The Folk Project, 1993)
---- King of the Road and Other Popular Hits (New York: Hansen Productions, 1965)
---- Kathleen Krull and Allen Garns: Gonna Sing My Head Off!: American Folk Songs for Children (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1990)
---- Kathleen Krull and Allen Garns: I Hear America Singing!: Folk Songs for American Families (New York: A. A. Knopf, 2003)
---- Abe and Malka Mandelblatt: Abe and Malka's 100 Guitar Accompaniment Patterns (Amsco, 1974)
---- Jim Morse and Nancy Mathews: The Sierra Club Survival Songbook (San Francisco and New York: The Sierra Club, 1971)
---- Earl Robinson: Young Folk Song Book (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963)
---- Elie Siegmeister: The Joan Baez Songbook (New York: Ryerson Music Publishers, 1964)
---- Sing Out!, Volume 13(1) (1963), p. 27
---- Hilda E. Wenner and Elizabeth Freilicher: Here's To the Women: 100 Songs For and About American Women (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1987)

Malvina Reynolds recordings of this song:
---- Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth
---- Held Over
---- Ear to the Ground
---- Malvina Reynolds...Sings the Truth (2008)
---- The Best of Broadside 1962-1988 (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW CD 40130, 2000)

Recordings by other artists on which this song is performed:
---- Au Go-Go Singers: They Call Us Au Go-Go Singers (Roulette Records SR-25280, 1964)
---- Joan Baez: Joan Baez in Concert (Vanguard VSD-2122, 1962)
---- Joan Baez: "We Shall Overcome/What Have They Done to the Rain" (45 r.p.m. single, Vanguard VRS-35023, 1963)
---- Joan Baez: "We Shall Overcome/What Have They Done to the Rain" (45 r.p.m. single, Amadeo 45-STU 42166)
---- Joan Baez: The Best of Joan Baez (Vanguard SH-130, 1964)
---- Joan Baez: Satisfied Mind (Book-of-the-Month Records [four discs], 1979)
---- Joan Baez:  listen to youtube.com video
---- The Cats: The Complete Collection (EMI, 2003/1966)
---- Ecology: Environment-Evolution (Happy Tiger HT-1008, 1970)
---- Marianne Faithfull: Marianne Faithfull (London PS423, 1965)
---- Marianne Faithfull: Marianne Faithfull (London LL 3423, 1965)
---- Marianne Faithfull: The Very Best of Marianne Faithfull (Decca 820 482-2, 1987)
---- Marianne Faithfull: Marianne Faithfull (Deram/Decca 820 630-2, 1989)
---- Marianne Faithfull: listen to youtube.com video
---- John Gage: Earth Heart (Falk Recording Studios, 1997)
---- Peter Goulandris: P. J. Orion and the Magnates (Magnate 122459, 1967)
---- Green Trees and Blue Water [sung by Martha Gerenbeck] (Roger Phenix RP-3296, 1960s)
---- Christer "Cisse" Häkkinen: I Love You Anyway (SLP 707, 1985)
---- The Hoot'nanny Show, Volume 1 [sung by Eleanor Leith] (Waverley ZLP 2025, 1963/1964)
---- Coco Kallis: Environmental Songs for Kids (Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings SFW 45048, 1999)
---- Pete King: Happiness Is (Readers Digest RDA 106 [nine discs], 1970)
---- Åse Kleveland: Åse (Polydor LDHM 46252, 1965)
---- Hal Leonard's Music for Choral Ensemble, 1979-80 (Hal Leonard Pub., 1979)
---- Virginia Lee: Remember Me (Teal Records MORCD 501, 1994)
---- Jeannie Lewis: Tango Australis (Jeannie Lewis, 1998)
---- Henrik Lyssand: Jentekoret ved os Ungdomsskule (Silver Crest JVA-111775, 1975)
---- Catherine McKinnon: The Voice of an Angel (Arc Sound A 628, 1964)
---- Keith and Rusty McNeil: Where Will the Children Play? (WEM Records MC 201, n.d.)
---- Melanie: Precious Cargo (Precious Cargo PC 7947, 1991)
---- Helen Merrill: In Tokyo/Sings Folk (Paddle Wheel KICJ-8353, 2001/1963)
---- Millburnaires '63: Teenage Hootenanny (Battle BS 96126, 1963)
---- New Century Singers: Farewell Concert (2003/1966)
---- Esther and Abi Ofarim: That's Our Song / Neue Songs der Welt (Philips 843 750 PY, 1965)
---- Esther and Abi Ofarim: Cinderella Rockefella (Reflections) (Philips 514564-2, 1993)
---- Esther and Abi Ofarim: Songs of Our Life (Mercury (Universal), 1997)
---- Esther and Abi Ofarim: listen to youtube.com video
---- Annie Patterson et al.: Everything Possible; 164 Songs About Community & Change (Sing Out Corp. SO107-SO112, 1991)
---- Margret RoadKnight: At the School of Arts Cafe (1997)
---- Sally Rogers: Piggyback Planet; Songs for a Whole Earth (Round River RRR 301, 1990)
---- Melanie Safka: Cowabonga (1989)
---- The Searchers: "What Have They Done to the Rain/This Feeling Inside" (45 r.p.m. single, Pye 7N15739, 1964)1
---- The Searchers: "What Have They Done to the Rain/This Feeling Inside" (45 r.p.m. single, Kapp 644, 1965)2
---- The Searchers: Searchers '65 (33 1/3 e.p., Pye NEP24222, 1965)3
---- The Searchers: The New Searchers LP (Kapp KL-1412, 1966)
---- The Searchers: The Searchers (Pye FILD 002, 1977)
---- The Searchers: Greatest Hits (Rhino R2 75773, 1987)
---- The Searchers: The Swedish Radio Sessions 1964-1967 (Castle Music CMRCD 394, 2001)
---- The Searchers: BBC Sessions (Castle/Sanctuary Records 06076-81345-2, 2004)
---- The Searchers:  listen to youtube.com video
---- The Searchers:  listen to youtube.com video
---- The Seekers: Hide & Seekers (World Record Club TP443, 1964)4
---- The Seekers: The Seekers (EMI Music Australia [five discs], 1995) listen to youtube.com video
---- Singing About Weather (Classroom Materials CM 1223, 1973)
---- The Sisters of Charity: An Evening in Song (International Artists SR1, n.d.)
---- Rosalie Sorrels: No Closing Chord; The Songs of Malvina Reynolds (Red House Records RHR CD 143, 2000)
---- The Staccatos: The Second Sin (Pye, PL 2091, 1966)
---- Triumvirate: If at First You Don't Succeed--Second Album (Triumvirate CO 1302, 1967)
---- Willard Grant Conspiracy and Telefunk: In the Fishtank 8 (CD e.p., KonKurrent, 2001)
---- Cris Williamson: Artistry of Cris Williamson (Avanti AVL-14001, 1964)
---- listen to youtube.com video
---- listen to youtube.com video
---- listen to youtube.com video
---- listen to youtube.com video
---- listen to youtube.com video
---- listen to youtube.com video

Additional notes
1. This Searchers single peaked at number thirteen on the British charts in late 1964.
2. In early 1965 the same recording topped out at number twenty-nine on the Billboard American chart, and at number twenty-eight on Cashbox.
3. This e.p. release reached as high as number fifteen on the British charts.
4. This lp was released in the U.K in 1965 as The Four & Only Seekers (EMI MFP 1301) and in the U.S. in 1965 as The New Seekers (Capitol ST-2319).


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