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Robert Redford ‘wrong’ about ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’

A Western centered around two 19th-century outlaws is not where you’d expect to find a ukulele-heavy song called “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

But more than 50 years ago, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s whimsical ditty featured prominently in Paul Newman and Robert Redford‘s classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which premiered on Sept. 23, 1969. 

Beloved now, the song’s inclusion was so controversial at the time that studio executives and Redford – who broke out as a superstar with his performance as the prepossessing, sharp-shooting Sundance Kid – were the song’s leading critics.

“I found out much later that the entire board over at 20th Century Fox didn’t like the song, and Robert Redford didn’t like it too much, either,” says Bacharach, 93. “But it felt right.”

Redford comes clean in a statement to USA TODAY.

B.J. Thomas dies at 78: The ‘Hooked on a Feeling,’ ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ singer had battled lung cancer

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“When the film was released, I was highly critical – how did the song fit with the film? There was no rain,” Redford says. “At the time, it seemed like a dumb idea. How wrong I was, as it turned out to be a giant hit.” 

History has proven it was a good thing that director George Roy Hill insisted on keeping the song. “Raindrops” would turn into a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, earning Bacharach and David an Oscar in 1970. Bacharach earned another Oscar for his film score (two of the four Academy Awards “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” would take home).

Bacharach understands the misgivings. After all, the single recorded by B.J. Thomas, who died Saturday at age 78, included curious lyrics like: “Raindrops are falling on my head / And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed / Nothing seems to fit.”

Burt Bacharach, seen here in 2013, didn't know about the criticism of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" before "Butch Cassidy" came out.

Inspiration struck the composer while watching the scene of Newman’s charming outlaw Butch Cassidy showing off his new bicycle to Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place (Katharine Ross) during a low-key moment in their outlaw existence.

“As Butch was riding, it was the way he looked. I kept hearing melodically what it sounded like with the ukulele and the bicycle, and it was all very simple,” says Bacharach. “I put in these dummy lyrics into the melody I was writing, I knew it made no sense.”

Even after the song was written, the songwriters tried to Western it up. But “nothing beat” the dummy lyrics which became the song title.

The natural chemistry of Robert Redford (left) and Paul Newman proved a huge selling point for 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

“There’s no reason the song should work, but it does, I can’t explain it,” says film historian Leonard Maltin. “It’s catchy, quirky with ethereal lyrics and unusual tempo. But it’s so appealing. And when you’re looking at those attractive people in a Western setting, it all comes together.”

Bacharach says he was unaware of any song criticism at the time, and Hill said nothing. “I caught no flack from him,” says Bacharach. “He never said, ‘This doesn’t work’ or ‘It’s too close to the edge.’ “



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