Opinion: An Ode to 50 Years of “The Rain Song”

I have known “The Rain Song” my whole life, but in the sort of way you don’t realize you have a connection to a song until you hear it and something in your soul shifts.

Houses of the Holy album cover. Image via Spotify.

“Houses of the Holy” album cover. Image via Spotify.

Julia Rush, Arts & Entertainment Editor

It’s March of 1973 and Led Zeppelin has just released their first ever non-self-titled album, “Houses of the Holy.” The tracklist jumps around from the harder rock Zeppelin is known for to some of the most supple sweet acoustics and lyrics in rock. 

Now flash to 2008 in Franklin, Maine––the same sweet sounds drift through the air making their way into my impressionable brain tissue. 

“The Rain Song” is one of my Dad’s favorite songs. In my life, we have shared so many interests, but I have heard music through him as long as I have existed. We have always been close, sharing far too many personality traits to not, but there has always been a deeper layer to our relationship through music. This sort of unspoken language between the two of us has forged a special bond, shining through in car rides full of music and talking and days spent sitting on the couch watching live concert film.

The 7:39 length may seem daunting, but the build up to a hugging, crying in the rain final hurrah is unbelievably worth it. There is little that goes unsaid about Jimmy Page’s guitar work, between his deft ability to layer delicate acoustic melodies and, in the same breath, rip through an electric guitar solo. This track proves his ability to layer instrumentals, but also how to back off and give each one its own voice. The guitar work doesn’t overpower any of the other components of the song and lets other sounds carry some of the melodic load. 

The standout of this track though, is the mellotron soaring through verse and chorus, courtesy of the underrated multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones. It pops up all throughout the album and adds a wobbly ethereal feel to the track, giving it an even more entrancing sound.

Of course drummer John Bonham could be trusted with fitting into the most delicate of songs and be able to mold his sound accordingly, still bringing the nastiest groove along for the ride. He does just that on this track, holding back until the climax of the buildup––beaming through, but not overpowering. 

Love and pain tinge the lyrics and lead Robert Plant finally declares,“this is the mystery of the coldest quotient/upon us all, upon us all, a little rain must fall.” It tells the story of the ebb and flow of love, the balance between deep pain and indescribable joy that haunt those in love. Plant’s vocals cut like a knife in the chorus while still maintaining their honey-smooth texture through the softer verses. 

All of these moving pieces make the track a perfect blend of each of the band members’ strengths, playing off each other the way Led Zeppelin does so well. 

I have known “The Rain Song” my whole life, but in the sort of way you don’t realize you have a connection to a song until you hear it and something in your soul shifts. While it has been ingrained in me for so long, I had never really paid attention to its lyrics until I was a teenager. It’s an incredibly tender track that is moving in more than just its lovely instrumentals, because it makes me feel close to my dad. 

Studying in London, I am further away from my home than I’ve ever been for an extended period of time. But music like this brings me back to warm New England summers. While this album turned 50 this month, existing for decades before I came into this world, it still holds the power to shape music lovers of my generation.