Musicians are just like normal folk: They like to talk about the weather, too. More than 900 singers and songwriters reference the weather in their music, and 7 percent of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time mention meteorological conditions, a new study of weather-related tunes finds.
In their spare time, a group of UK climate researchers led by Sally Brown, a research fellow at the University of Southampton who studies sea-level rise, combed through music archives to find as many references as possible to the weather in popular music. Their study of the 759 songs they found, including detailed analysis of 419 songs drawn from a karaoke database, is published in the journal Weather.
Bob Dylan liked writing about the weather most of any musician in the database, with 163 songs in his archive mentioning the weather, especially wind and sun (think “Blowin’ in the Wind”). The researchers posit that Dylan’s childhood in Minnesota might have been an influence—he certainly would have experienced a wide range of weather there.
More than a third of the songs studied referenced the sun or the rain, while blizzards were mentioned least out of all weather patterns. Frank Loesser’s song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” had some of the most references in a single song, with six mentions of the weather.
The researchers found no links between particular genres and the types of weather depicted, and while the sun tends to be mentioned in upbeat, major-key songs, rain was referenced in both a positive and negative light.
Naturally, this study wasn’t a comprehensive overview of all of popular music throughout history. It focused mainly on karaoke databases, which don’t necessarily provide a random sampling of songs—they only include songs that people like to sing, and often skew more toward contemporary pop hits. You can add any songs the researchers might have missed here.
Next up, they're collecting data on music inspired by astronomy. I, for one, can’t wait for their analysis of The Dark Side of the Moon.