Whether heard as a distant rumble or as an ominous crack in the sky above, the sound of thunder generates a sensation like no other. Countless musicians have attempted to capture this raw energy in their music, with songs as diverse as a Baroque concerto to a hard rock musical anthem. So, let’s dive in and experience the powerful force of this music with the 9 best songs about thunder!
“Spring” (La Primavera) from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
One of the all-time best songs about thunder comes from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni). This musical compilation is Vivaldi’s most famous work and incorporates four different violin concertos. Each concerto brilliantly captures the essence of a particular season, transporting listeners from the cheerful sounds of spring to the intensity of winter. Vivaldi also wrote a poem to accompany each of these seasonal concertos to illustrate the emotions and feelings of each piece.
However, the music itself has its own narrative quality and evokes emotional imagery in its listeners. The first concerto of The Four Seasons is “Spring” (La Primavera). The song opens with bright violins mimicking the happy song of birds in the spring. However, after only one to two minutes of this, the tone of the piece transforms and becomes much darker. The orchestra begins mimicking the deafening thunderclaps Vivaldi describes in his poem, as “the sky is covered with a black mantle / And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm”.
“Thunder and Lightning Polka” by Johann Strauss II
Johann Strauss II’s masterful “Thunder and Lightning Polka” is widely considered one of the greatest polkas ever written. Produced in 1868, the song has a lively tune and an incredibly infectious melody, all while representing the drama and excitement of a raging thunderstorm. The song uses booming bass drums that reverberate like thunder, vibrant cymbal crashes like lightning, and dazzlingly woodwind embellishments that fill the air with thunderous electricity.
“God of Thunder” by Kiss
Debuting on the Kiss’ 1976 Destroyer album, “God of Thunder” has become the theme song of the band. “God of Thunder” is a high-energy rock and roll anthem, and its live performances often involved blood-spitting and a jaw-dropping bass solo. The song’s thunderous beats and electrifying riffs evoke the chaos of being trapped in a thunderstorm. The song uses the image of the “God of Thunder” to illustrate the all-encompassing power (and possession) of music. The musicians themselves act as powerful gods that captivate and intoxicate listeners with their presence and music. “God of Thunder” is still one of Kiss’ all-time best songs.
“Walking in the Rain” by the Ronettes
The Ronnettes’ soulful voices brought “Walking in the Rain” to life in 1964. The song was one of the group’s last major hits and began climbing the music charts in no time. Even decades later the song is a classic and has been recorded over and over again by numerous artists over the years.
“Walking in the Rain” opens with the real sounds of rain and thunder. The use of such groundbreaking sound effects was revolutionary for the time. In fact, Larry Levin (the sound engineer) received a Grammy nomination for the song. The song’s soft and soothing percussion also mimics the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops, creating a vivid scene for listeners. In addition, the rumbling thunder in the background makes you feel like you are actually walking in the rain.
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
Each member of Fleetwood Mac was struggling when the band recorded their #1 hit song “Dreams”. Everyone was going through a breakup, a separation, or a divorce. Stevie Nicks — who was ending her relationship with fellow band member Lindsey Buckingham at the time — wrote the song in just 10 minutes. Initially, the band wasn’t too excited about the song. However, after a lot of tweaking and construction, the band released “Dreams” in 1977 and it instantly topped the charts.
Nicks wrote “Dreams” both as an expression of her feelings and as a response to Buckingham’s own break-up ballad, “Go Your Own Way.” “Go Your Own Way” is a song about the pain of accepting that sometimes love just doesn’t work out. Although “Dreams” conveyed a similar message, Nicks felt the song was her way of bowing out gracefully. On the other hand, she saw Buckingham’s song as an insensitive attack. Nicks said that in her song the thunder and the rain represent the ability to be washed clean and start a new, happier life.
“The Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks wrote “The Thunder Rolls” and recorded it for his 1990 album, No Fences. It was only his second album, and he aimed to push the traditional boundaries of country music with his new songs. “The Thunder Rolls” paints a vivid image through its lyrics and music, which also includes recordings of thunder crashing as well. In the song, a woman discovers that her husband is cheating on her. Each time the thunder rolls above her it reminds her of his betrayal. “The Thunder Rolls” sent shockwaves throughout the music world and became a country music classic.
Although not included on the album’s recording, Brooks added an additional verse to the song during his live performances. In the extra verse, the woman runs to the bedroom, grabs a gun, and “Tells the lady in the mirror / He won’t do this again”. The music video for “The Thunder Rolls” included a darker theme of domestic violence. Because of this, both CMT and TNN banned the video. However, VH1 decided to play it, and women’s shelters expressed gratitude for shedding light on domestic violence.
“Riders on the Storm” by The Doors
The atmospheric nature of “Riders on the Storm” transports listeners into a dark cinematic-like scene, complete with authentic rain and thunder sounds integrated into the music. Released in 1971, the song is considered a genre-bending musical masterpiece. It includes styles of jazz-rock, psychedelic rock, and art rock. It even hints at a future style of gothic music. To this day, it is still one of The Doors’ all-time best songs.
Composed in the key of E minor, “Riders on the Storm” also features various pitches of the Dorian Mode scale, creating a very unique sound. It was the very last song that all four members of The Doors recorded together. It was also Jim Morrison’s last song, as he passed away just a few weeks after its release.
“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
The Australian rock band AC/DC struck gold with their 1990 album, The Razors Edge, which included their famous song, “Thunderstruck”. The term “the razors edge” (no apostrophe) is an old British saying. Farmers used it on sunny days that were unexpectedly interrupted by a sudden thunderstorm. “Thunderstruck” became the perfect opening song for The Razors Edge tour, as its electrifying sound mimics these thunderous and dark storm clouds.
The word “thunder” is repeated as the first 10 words of the song, and is also continually used as a tag later on as well. The song was written by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young, who both played in the band at the time. The song features a complex and extremely strenuous guitar solo played by Angus Young, who also came up with the song’s opening guitar riff. This opening melody has since become one of the most recognizable and famous rock music riffs of all time.
Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral Symphony) by Ludwig van Beethoven
The music of Ludwig van Beethoven is bursting with deep emotions, complex instrumentation, and revolutionary techniques. He wrote Symphony No. 6 (also known as the Pastoral Symphony) in 1808, which was greatly inspired by his walks in the country. It is like one giant musical poem that evokes the feelings that Beethoven felt when he was outside in nature. The first three movements of the piece portray the pastoral serenity of country life with cheerful melodies and bright tones. However, the fourth movement shifts to an exhilarating thunderstorm.
The basses and cellos begin playing quietly as the violins produce the sounds of raindrops. As the volume and intensity grow, more instrumentation is added to the song. The string instruments create the sounds of heavy rainfall and swirling winds, while the piccolo emits sharp tones that emulate lightning. Then add in the thunderous trombones and the booming of the timpani, and it is hard not to mistake Beethoven’s song for a real-life thunderstorm!
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