The article How Weather Influenced the Music of the ’60s and Beyond (Songwriting News, SongSmith, Nov. 16, 2016), reblogged on this site, discusses a time “when music was heavily influenced by the weather.”
I’ve always been a weather person even outside of music, but the two have definitely merged for me. Weather and light levels correlate with mood, and music is all about mood. Mood drives writing.
Throughout my life, I have gravitated toward weather songs.
Earliest memories of an interest in weather
European weather vane
My obsession with weather may have originated with one of my earliest memories in Prague, Czech Republic, on a blustery, grey day when I was two or three years old. On one of my typical walks with my grandfather, probably to preschool, he pointed out a weather vane at the top of a peaked roof. It was black metal with a rooster on top and an arrow indicating wind direction. My grandfather explained how it worked. Thereafter, I always checked the weather vane and the wind direction whenever we passed.
Mud and galoshes in Prague
On another late fall day with low clouds and a strong wind, we walked along a sidewalk beside a field of mud after days of rain. Imagine a well-dressed European gentleman with trench coat, trilby or homburg hat, and black galoshes to protect his dress shoes, walking hand-in-hand with a small child of no more than two or three years of age. He commented, one hand clamped upon the hat, that the wind was so strong it threatened to take it right of this head.
He must have released the hat for a moment because the next thing I knew, it was airborne, soon landing upright in the field of mud. My grandfather said to me (in Czech, of course), “Stay here. I’m going to have to go in there and get it.”
Gingerly, he stepped into the mud, sinking to his ankles. He took some steps toward the hat, reached for it, and almost had it when the wind blew it forward another metre. My grandfather followed it, mud sucking at his shoes and dirtying the bottoms of his freshly pressed pants.
He bent over, nearly had the brim. The devilish wind blew it forward just out of reach once more. It was exactly like a TV comedy (though I would not see such a show until years later in Canada).
On the sidewalk, I felt my mouth twitching into a smile. In my conscience, I knew this was a terrible time to laugh and tried hard to control the impulse, or at least not be seen. I really did feel sorry for my grandfather, teased like that by a silly wind and getting his good clothes muddy. But the situation and sight were absurd enough to be utterly hilarious.
In the field, devoid of anything except mud with dark clouds racing low overhead, my grandfather timed his movements and pounced, nearly falling. He had the hat. Inwardly, I cheered for him.
He returned to the sidewalk minus one of his galoshes but with hat triumphantly in hand, slightly muddy, which he then wiped on a cloth handkerchief and placed back upon his head, pressing it down. “I lost a galosh in there.” He showed me his shoe.
We both glanced at the field, where the deep holes made by his steps were already closing together at the top. The mud ate the rubber shoe protector.
It was clear he was considering rescuing his footwear, then decided against it. We walked on, a small child and an old man with one galosh, leaving tracks of muddy footsteps on the sidewalk.
Scientific geekiness with weather began at age nine or ten
The weather channel that taught me about weather
Years later in Ontario, Canada circa the mid-1970s, a PBS television station from Pennsylvania broadcasted a 10-15 minute detailed weather forecast on weeknights. From the weather man on this station, who explained everything, I learned what cold fronts and warm fronts, high pressure and low pressure areas, contour lines, and even dew points were. I learned to read and interpret weather maps. Penn State was just south of the boarder, so southwestern Ontario was included in the forecast area.
Ontario’s lake-effect weather
Ontario was known for some interesting weather, which I kept track of for years. Without the benefit of the Internet, I had to remember facts such as the first and last snowfalls of a given year, dates with highest humidity (such as the day of my river and rapids canoe run in summer ’76), and snowstorms, such as the one that hit London, Ontario in early December 1977. The morning temperature began with a balmy +3°C but was -10°C (before wind chill) by after school, with the wind blowing and snow falling. We woke the following morning to three feet of snow (undrifted), a car stuck in the garage, impassable roads, and a wonderful “snow day” with no school. February 1978 was unusually crisp with a long, sunny cold spell that had snow piled high beside the sidewalks, creating a tunnel effect. In the -25°C nights, some high school friends and I skated on an outdoor rink in a city park.
Studying clouds, wind, and weather
Throughout my teens and into university, I studied different types of clouds, which clouds indicated what types of weather, air pressure, humidity, dew points, fronts, types of storms, effect of landforms and geography, weather patterns, and many other meteorological phenomena. I would have been a meteorologist had I been able to afford to study out of town in the 1980s.
Weather watching in Alberta
These weather-monitoring habits continued well into adulthood and my life in Alberta:
and the descriptions in Beyond the Precipice.
Weather, mood, songs, and memories in the hands of a musician and writer
Seasons in Ontario brought changes of mood, from the elation of Spring Fever arriving in the latter part of February or March at school recess or with shafts of sunbeams entering the living room while practising my keyboard before class (“It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day/Here is the rainbow I’ve been waiting for,” I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash) to the sombre, blustery days filled with oppressive clouds that hailed the coming of another winter (“When the gales of November came slashin’/When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain/In the face of a hurricane west wind,” The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot).
Canoeing in the interior of Algonquin Park, Ontario with CCR in July 1981
Who’ll Stop the Rain
(Creedence Clearwater Revival)
Bad Moon Rising
(Creedence Clearwater Revival)
Guitar days with my father
House of the Rising Sun
Summer storms with my brother in the 1970s, Ontario in the 1980s, and driving through the British Columbia mountains in 2007
Dust in the Wind
Memories of Stargate: Atlantis, Teyla’s song, 2000s
Beyond the Night
Grade 7 choir, 1975
- A beautiful video. No embed available.
Blustery days in the fall, 1977
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Spring Fever adrenaline, 1977-1982
I Can See Clearly Now