The song: A Gordon Lightfoot’s Original
Composed and recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, “Early Morning Rain” (sometimes “Early Mornin’ Rain”) was popularized by George Hamilton IV. The song appears on Gordon’s 1966 debut album Lightfoot! and in a re-recorded version of the 1975 compilation Gord’s Gold.
Lightfoot composed the song in 1964, but its genesis took root during his sojourn in Westlake, Los Angeles, during 1960.
Throughout this time, Lightfoot sometimes became homesick and would go out to the Los Angeles International Airport on rainy days to watch the approaching aircraft. The imagery of the flights taking off into the overcast sky was still with him when, in 1964, he was caring for his 5-month-old baby son and he thought, “I’ll put him over here in his crib, and I’ll write myself a tune.”
“Early Morning Rain” was the result.
The lyrics suggest someone down on his luck, standing at an airport fence and observing the thunderous takeoff of a Boeing 707 jetliner. The general narrative of the song can be taken as a jet-age musical allegory to a hobo of yesteryear lurking around a railroad yard attempting to surreptitiously board and ride a freight train to get home. Lightfoot reflects that being able to capture this narrative was due to his steady improvement as a songwriter.
Before anyone, it was Ian & Sylvia first
In 1965, the Canadian husband and wife duo Ian & Sylvia were the first artists to release this song. There was over a year’s time lag between their recording and Lightfoot’s recording and release in 1966. The Grateful Dead also recorded the song in 1965.
We Five released a version of the song on their 1970 album, Catch the Wind. Notably, the song has been adopted as a US Army marching ‘Jody’ cadence,
“In the early morning rain with my weapon in my hand, I will make a final stand, and pocket full of sand.”
About George Hamilton IV
George Hege Hamilton IV was born July 19, 1937, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he recorded a teen-oriented pop song, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” which reached No. 6 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1956.
George Hamilton IV was a popular country singer of the 1960s and 1970s and a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry.
George Hamilton IV/amazon.co.uk
Hamilton had been an Opry member since 1960 when he made the switch from pop music to country. He worked with guitarist and producer Chet Atkins on a number of hits and scored his first country No. 1 with “Abilene” in 1963.
Starting in the 1970s, he brought country music to Russia and Czechoslovakia and recorded the first country album in Eastern Europe. Over the years, he hosted country-themed television shows in Britain and Canada. He also was a featured performer in Billy Graham’s Christian crusades.
Among his best-remembered songs in the 1960s and the early 1970s were written by Gordon Lightfoot. This includes “Steel Rail Blues” and “Early Morning Rain.”
He passed away on September 17, 2014, at the age of 77 due to a heart attack.
Watch George Hamilton IV perform “Early Morning Rain” live at the Grand Ole Opry in 2000.