“King Sunny” by Jacques Dorier, Resin and washi papers
We humans are big on prediction; the end of the world, the outcome of a horse race, how much junk food we can eat at one sitting. Nostradamus may have been one of the first to earn his living predicting things, but how often was he right? Luckily Harold Camping was NEVER right.
Horse races don’t fare any better. California Chrome, racing for the Triple Crown, caused a lot of people to bet a lot of money predicting his win which fell to another. A cautionary ditty from the past said “I bet my money on a bob-tail nag, somebody bet on the bay.”
A local meteorologist was given the sack because he said you couldn’t predict the weather as much as seven days ahead. Now they do it regularly, but are they always right?
Television has hijacked the weather and stolen its mystery. Poetic ruminations about the moon and the stars and the wind have no place in TV’s world of scientific charts. They show us continental maps filled with circles and arrows amid large sections of color purporting to tell us of oncoming floods, tornadoes, snowstorms and hurricanes heading our way. No pity softens the voice of the person telling us that tomorrow’s temperature of 96 degrees will have a “real-feel” temperature of 107.
An earlier breed of sky watchers didn’t take weather so seriously. America’s early songwriters knew in their bones that there were blue moons, buttermilk skies and even rain wasn’t an event to get your knickers in a twist. It’s a state of mind, the stuff of dreams and yearnings.
To lyricists in the 20’s and 30’s the weather was a meteorologist’s playground, and they didn’t hesitate to write about phenomena not known to science: blue moons, paper moons, stardust, stars falling on Alabama, pennies from Heaven, a storybook life over the rainbow.
Johnny Mercer wrote about 1500 songs, and along with Harold Arlen and others, realized that the weather served songwriters as a metaphor for a broken heart. Torch songs as they were called in that day, were mostly sung by women, and bad weather predicted bad news, the end of the world. “Stormy Weather” is a slow lamentation of lost love. And what could be worse?
We hear that the bride is happy if the sun shines on her. We are left to wonder what might happen if it rains on the wedding day.
That kind of weather doesn’t get recorded on any television chart.