‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’: Creedence’s Poignant Late-Period Classic

Another classic Creedence Clearwater Revival single started its journey into the public’s hearts on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of January 30, 1971.

That was the chart that contained the debut of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,“ released as a 45 from the album Pendulum. It’s a song that has only grown in stature as the passing decades burnish the group’s remarkable legacy – and it tells its own private but poignant tale of their impending fracture.

CCR had been one of the top names in rock for well over two years by the time of the release, with seven Top 10 singles and seven million-sellers to their name and a major international presence. The bloom may have been off the rose by now in terms of frontman and songwriter John Fogerty’s feelings towards the band, but the hits kept coming – if not for that much longer. His brother Tom left the band just after the release of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” which duly gave the remaining members an eighth US million-selling single. But there would be only one more, in “Sweet Hitch-Hiker.”

In his autobiography Fortunate Son, John Fogerty didn’t mince words about his frustration at the time he wrote the 1971 hit. “‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ is about the breakup of the band,” he confided. “I was feeling, ‘Man, we achieved all our dreams. And you guys are only talking about negative stuff.’ By your own volition, you bring in a huge rain cloud and cause it to rain. On your own perfect dream. That’s the way I saw it. I was watching the band disintegrate right in front of my eyes.”

Triple platinum by 2020

Pendulum reached No.5 in the US, its success propelled in no small measure by this new single. “Rain” jumped onto the US chart, with its B-side “Hey Tonight” also listed, at No.56, in the same week as the Jackson 5’s “Mama’s Pearl” and as Dawn’s pop tune “Knock Three Times” continued at No.1. The Creedence single peaked at No.8, in March, and hit No.36 in the UK. It went gold within a few weeks of release, and in December 2020, the RIAA increased its certification to a lofty triple platinum.

The Cash Box trade review of the single at the time sensed a new direction for Creedence. “Showing their first major change since establishing themselves on the rock front,” wrote the magazine, ”Creedence Clearwater slows and softens their sound in this single from the Pendulum monster. While ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ comes as close to a ballad as anything from CCR, the flip features their unique power to turn this into a two-sided giant.”

In the summer of 1971, the band started their first American tour as a trio, and then in September, their second European itinerary began in Holland. The glory days of CCR were coming towards an end, but “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” stands as one of their last great songs, as underlined by dozens of cover versions, from Johnny Cash to Joan Jett and from Rod Stewart to the Ramones. Not to mention its repeat rotation in practically every bar, shop and playlist across many decades.

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Happily, Fogerty came to think of the song in a much more positive light in later years. Introducing it to a crowd at a 2012 show, he said: “This song was originally written about a very sad thing that was going on in my life. But I refuse to be sad now. Because now this song reminds me of my little girl, Kelsy, and every time I sing it, I think about Kelsy and rainbows.” The following year, he teamed up with country superstar Alan Jackson to cut a new version for John’s all-star Wrote A Song For Everyone album.

Buy or stream “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” on the Pendulum album.

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