‘Stormy Weather’ was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for the 1933 Cotton Club Revue. Here’s a nice little history biscuit from the BBC Radio 2 website:
“[Koehler’s] phrases mirrored the roots of jazz and blues, so lines such as ‘all I do is pray/that the Lord will let me/ walk in the sun once more’ hark back to the language of the black slave spiritual.
The song had been intended for Cab Calloway and his band but he had left the Cotton Club to be replaced by Duke Elllington who gave the song to Ethel Waters.
In the meantime Harold Arlen himself had been singing the song with the Leo Reisman Band and Reisman was so impressed with the version he released a recording of the song a few months before the revue opened, giving the composer a rare hit both as a writer and performer.”
The song has since been covered by a multitude of artists and has become somewhat of a jazz staple — you might’ve heard versions by Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller and Ella Fitzgerald, to name but a few. Billie Holiday’s version isn’t necessarily the most well known one, but to me, it’s the version that brings out the disappointment in the lyrics the most - “stormy weather since my man and I ain’t together, keeps raining all the time.”
Billie’s vocal is just heart-breaking. When she sings “just can’t get my poor old self together. I’m weary all the time” you have absolutely no doubt that she means every word she says. Sublime.