The often undervalued achievements of one of America’s great hitmakers, Johnny Rivers, were further enhanced on the Billboard Hot 100 of November 18, 1967. That was when “Summer Rain” entered the chart to cap another great year for the Brooklyn-born artist, who had spent some of it mining the Motown catalog to great effect.
Rivers’ version of the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving” spent two weeks at No.3 in the US, then his update of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tracks Of My Tears” hit No.10. “Summer Rain” was written by Jim Hendricks, formerly with the Mugwumps, who also included Denny Doherty and John Sebastian, future members of the Mamas and the Papas and the Lovin’ Spoonful respectively.
A psychedelically-tinged reflection
The song was a psychedelically-tinged, wistful reflection on the “Summer of Love” that had taken place a few months earlier, and is a fascinating time capsule for another reason. The lyric also makes reference to The Beatles’ era-defining album of 1967. Twice, Rivers sings: “All summer long we were dancing in the sand, everybody just kept on playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“Summer Rain” entered the chart at No.81, joined among the new entries by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s “Woman, Woman” and Dusty Springfield’s “What’s It Gonna Be.” Rivers’ single climbed to No.14 in Billboard (No.10 in Cash Box), to become the 11th of his 13 Top 20 hits in his home country, and last of the 1960s.
The following summer, “Summer Rain” was included on Rivers’ Realization album, which became his most highest-charting LP in the US, reaching No.5. It was certified gold for 500,000 shipments in 1969. “Summer Rain” appeared on the record just before the singer’s version of another song that came to represent that Summer of Love: Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.”
Listen to the 60s playlist for dozens more of the decade’s finest, from Sam Cooke to the Supremes.