It’s a brutal day. It’s not the weather, which is magnificent here in southern Rhode Island. It’s just that some of the heaviest stuff in my life all seems to be going down at the same time. In short, although it may be sunny outside, it’s raining in my heart. And when it comes to rain, I feel a lot like Ann Peebles did.
Peebles was not yet 21 years-old when Willie Mitchell offered her a deal at the legendary Hi Records label in Memphis. She had started in gospel, but was singing secular music in St. Louis by the time she was in her teens. A 1968 Memphis gig with Gene “Bowlegs” Miller led to a meeting with Mitchell, and the rest is history.
Hi Records had been a country music label, and Mitchell was trying to transition it to soul. Peebles was signed before the label’s biggest star, Al Green, came aboard. Early on in her Hi career Peebles had minor hits with songs like “Walk Away,” and “Give Me Some Credit.” In 1970 her fourth single, “Part Time Love,” went Top Ten on the R&B chart.
In 1972 Peebles’ second album Straight From the Heart spawned a number of minor R&B hits including “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” But it was the following year that Peebles really hit the big time. “I Can’t Stand the Rain”, far and away Peebles best known song, reached #6 on the R&B chart, and crossed over to #38 on the pop chart. With the powerful “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” as a follow-up, Ann Peebles became a star.
Peebles would go to have more hits, but she never equalled the success of “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Then disco came alone to put a damper on her career, and the sale of Hi Records in 1977 didn’t help matters. By the end of the decade Peebles had decided to take a break in order to focus on her family.
There would be a reunion with Willie Mitchell for the 1989 album Call Me, which Mitchell released on his Waylo label. The effort failed to garner much attention however, and most fans found it disappointing. Peebles continued releasing albums in the ’90s, but never repeated the kind of success that she saw in the ’70s.
“I Can’t Stand the Rain” was covered by a wide variety of artists including Humble Pie, Ronnie Wood, Graham Central Station, Albert King, Lowell George, Seal, and Cassandra Wilson. The original version was included on the soundtrack of the 1991 film The Commitments. And then there was John Lennon, who told Billboard Magazine that “it’s the best song ever.”