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Here Comes the Sun: Why Weather Influenced the Music of the '60s

Over 900 songwriters or singers have written or sung about weather, the most common being Bob Dylan, followed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, according to British researchers, writing in the journal Weather.

Sixteen percent, or 48, of The Beatles' 308 songs are weather-related.

Weather plays a powerful role in our lives so it should be no surprise that the theme is played out in the music songwriters and singers produce, researchers said.

"I think they simply wrote about aspects of the world that they enjoyed or inspired them. They have lots of good catchy music tunes, so that helps too," Dr. Sally Brown of the University of Southampton, which is part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said.

Brown and other Tyndall researchers uncovered 759 popular songs with a weather connection, with about 7 percent of the top 500 songs being weather-related. The group has developed a database of the songs and is looking for any additions it may have missed.

As songwriters, The Beatles made deep connections with their audience about the nature of the human condition, according to Beatles' expert Dr. Kenneth Womack, dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University in New Jersey.

Womack has written four books on The Beatles, including The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four.

"Not surprisingly, we often find ourselves speculating about the weather and its role in our lives," Womack said. "For The Beatles, the weather acts as a touchstone for understanding our humanity. Witness such classic numbers as 'Here Comes the Sun, 'Rain' and 'I'll Follow the Sun' -- tracks that connect the external world with our internal experiences."

Using a subsection from a karaoke database, researchers found over 200 songs where weather was a major theme, such as "Here Comes the Sun," "Singin' in the Rain" and "Bus Stop," Brown said.

"We were also really surprised on how much weather was mentioned just in passing in songs," she said. "Good examples of this are in the Beach Boys' 'Sunlight Plays Upon Her Hair' and in 'Good Vibrations.' Many songwriters just write about their environment, and weather is just part of that."

For example, George Harrison wrote "Here Comes the Sun" on the day of the first sunshine of the year in April 1969, Brown explained.

"George Harrison stated, 'It was such a great release for me simply being out in the sun... The song just came to me,'" Brown said.

More weather-related songs were written during times of increased severe weather activity including hurricanes Betsy, Hazel, Carol, Donna and Carla in the United States, Brown said.

"References to bad weather in pop songs were significantly more likely in the stormy 1950s and 1960s than in the relatively quiet 1970s and 1980s," Brown said.

Our moods and emotional patterns often seem to be interrelated with weather change, Womack said.

"Hence, The Beatles offer a song such as 'Here Comes the Sun,' a track that connotes a sense of buoyancy and optimism about the conclusion of a 'long, cold, lonely winter' in contrast with the warmth, newness and renewal associated with the spring," Womack said.

"Such moments, as depicted by George Harrison's imagery, afford us with hope for the future and our own existence. Thus, it affects us in a very personal way," he explained.

Womack said he is enamored with "Here Comes the Sun" because of its inherent beauty and majesty.

"But also 'Rain,' which speaks so fluently about the power that inclement weather invariably holds over the quality of our lives. As John Lennon sings in the song, 'If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads,' which contrasts with a later verse when he sings, 'When the sun shines, they slip into the shade,'" Womack said.

"For Lennon's speaker, the idea of living in spite of the weather's intrusions -- and living in the moment -- is what matters. 'Rain, I don't mind,' he sings in the chorus. 'Shine, the weather's fine.'"