Let’s Talk About Joe Cocker and Metaphors

One of my favorite scenes from Saturday Night Live is John Belushi’s impression of Joe Cocker. My Pops had a bunch of Joe Cocker albums, but I didn’t start listening to them until I saw Cocker and Belushi sing “Feelin’ Alright” on SNL (check it out on the YouTube if you want to see a couple great artists at work).  I Can Stand a Little Rain is my favorite Joe Cocker album and the song of the same name is makes for an interesting study of metaphor.

“I Can Stand a Little Rain” isn’t unique in its use of metaphor; more songs incorporate metaphor than don’t. What I find interesting about this song is the turn half way through. Rain serves as a metaphor for the many hardships life forces upon us, but there is a shift in the third verse of the song. It is here that the song moves away from the pains of life and toward the possibility of a happy ending. Joe Cocker’s sorrowful voice takes us from pain to hope in four verses that span of three and half minutes.

The first verse establishes the metaphor. We get Cocker’s sorrowful repetition of, “I can stand a little rain,” three times followed by a line about pain.  The imagery of water coming up through the floorboards, the rising water, portrays impending doom. The verse ends with a desire for some rest from all this rain, which serves as a metaphor for pain and hardship. The second verse continues the metaphor. It is a testament to how much pain we can stand and for how long we can stand it. This verse reinforces the idea that this is all just part of life. It is here, at this low point, that the song takes a turn.

The third verse moves away from a focus on the rain as a metaphor for the pains and hardships of life and toward a desire for love. At first listen it sounds as if it is a plea for love, anything to get away from the pain. But as the verse progresses we realize that the singer is willing to take any “test” that life may present regarding love. This willingness to take any “test” is carried into the fourth, and final, verse of the song. The singer has weathered the rain and the hardships of life and knows that any test of love will be easy in comparison. This is shown not only in the lyrics but also in the change in Cocker’s voice and chorus. We see that the singer will “make it” in the end.

When I first saw Joe Cocker perform with John Belushi all those years ago I knew these were two artists I would follow. Joe Cocker’s voice and his passion make any song he sings uniquely his. “I Can Stand a Little Rain” is more than an example of Joe Cocker at his best. It is a song that shows us that if we dig deep down we can endure the pains and hardships of life, and in so doing we are better prepared when the rain breaks and the sun comes out.

-K-

I Can Stand a Little Rain (1974) by Joe Cocker. Produced by Jim Price.