Rainy Night in Georgia
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"Rainy Night in Georgia" is a song written by Tony Joe White in 1967 and popularized by R&B vocalist Brook Benton in 1970. It was originally released by White on his 1969 album, "Continued" on Monument Records, shortly before Benton's hit single was issued.
|"Rainy Night in Georgia"|
|Single by Brook Benton|
|from the album Brook Benton Today|
|B-side||"Where Do I Go From Here?"|
|Format||Vinyl record (7" 45 RPM)|
|Songwriter(s)||Tony Joe White|
In a January 17, 2014 interview with music journalist Ray Shasho, Tony Joe White explained the thought process behind the making of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Polk Salad Annie".
When I got out of high school I went to Marietta, Georgia, I had a sister living there. I went down there to get a job and I was playing guitar too at the house and stuff. I drove a dump truck for the highway department and when it would rain you didn't have to go to work. You could stay home and play your guitar and hangout all night. So those thoughts came back to me when I moved on to Texas about three months later. I heard "Ode to Billie Joe" on the radio and I thought, man, how real, because I am Billie Joe, I know that life. I've been in the cotton fields. So I thought if I ever tried to write, I'm going to write about something I know about. At that time I was doing a lot of Elvis and John Lee Hooker onstage with my drummer. No original songs and I hadn't really thought about it. But after I heard Bobbie Gentry I sat down and thought … well I know about Polk because I had ate a bunch of it and I knew about rainy nights because I spent a lot of rainy nights in Marietta, Georgia. So I was real lucky with my first tries to write something that was not only real and hit pretty close to the bone, but lasted that long. So it was kind of a guide for me then on through life to always try to write what I know about.
In 1969, after several years without a major hit, Benton had signed to a new record label, Cotillion Records (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records) by label A&R chief and producer Jerry Wexler. Benton recorded the song in November 1969 with arranger/producer Arif Mardin. Session personnel on the record included Billy Carter on organ, Dave Crawford on piano, Cornell Dupree and Jimmy O'Rourke on guitar, Harold Cowart on bass, Tubby Ziegler on drums, and Toots Thielemans on harmonica.
Included on his "come-back" album Brook Benton Today, the melancholy song became an instant hit. In the spring of 1970, the song had topped the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart. It also reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and number two on the Adult Contemporary chart. In Canada, the song made #2 on the RPM Magazine Hot Singles chart, #2 on the AC Chart, and #58 in the 1970 Year End Chart.
The RIAA certified the single gold for sales of one million copies. In 2004, it was ranked #498 on the List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The song has been covered by a number of musicians, including Ray Charles, Otis Rush, Gil Parris, Little Milton, Dolla, Hearts Of Stone, Randy Crawford, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Al Hirt, Johnny Rivers, Amos Garrett, Hank Williams, Jr.(#21 Can.), Nat Stuckey, a Conway Twitty/Sam Moore duet (#33 Can.), Arthur Prysock, Aaron Neville, Chris Young, Ana Popovic and Shelby Lynne. Randy Crawford's version reached No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart in 1981.
David Ruffin recorded a cover version of the song the same year as Benton, but Motown did not release the album until the 2000s. B.J. Thomas also recorded the song the same year as Benton for his album Most of All.
Several reggae covers have been recorded including ones by: Ken Parker, Lord Tanamo, Nicky Thomas, John Holt, and reggae bands The Gladiators and The Congos. In 1967 Prince Buster rewrote the lyrics and recorded a sexually explicit reggae version of this song called "Big Five", usually found with certain words bleeped out. Gregory Isaacs did a dancehall style version at the start of the 90s.
More recent covers include those by indie folk-rock band Hem from their album No Word from Tom (2006), and by Boz Scaggs from his album Memphis (2013). Australian band Ross Hanniford Trio recorded a cover of the song on their 1994 album. In 2000, guitarist Eric Essix covered the song on his album Southbound. An electronic-influenced downtempo/chillout version was recorded by Boozoo Bajou and Tony Joe White in 2006. Rod Stewart included the song on his 2009 album Soulbook. Singer Frank Shiner released the song as the first single and video from his 2017 album Lonely Town, Lonely Street.
The song is featured in Haruki Murakami's novel Hear the Wind Sing.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 54.
- "Cover versions of Rainy Night in Georgia written by Tony Joe White". SecondHandSongs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 125. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Most of All overview". Allmusic.com.
- "Southbound overview". Allmusic.com.