Handy said he had been inspired by a chance meeting with a woman on the streets of St. Louis distraught over her husband''''s absence, who lamented, "Ma man''''s got a heart like a rock cast in de sea", a key line of the song.   Details of the story vary. Handy''''s autobiography recounts his hearing the tune in St. Louis in 1892: "It had numerous one-line verses and they would sing it all night." 
The song was a massive and enduring success. At the time of his death in 1958, Handy was earning royalties of upwards of US$25,000 annually for the song (equivalent to about $200,000 in 2016). The original published sheet music is available online from the United States Library of Congress in a searchable database of African-American music from Brown University. 
The song has since been performed by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra , Etta James , Dinah Washington , Clodagh Rodgers , and Reigning Sound and most famously by Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. Leo Reisman ''s orchestra version had the biggest hit on records (with Arlen himself as vocalist), although Ethel Waters ''s recorded version also sold well. [ citation needed ] "Stormy Weather" was featured in the 1943 movie of the same name.
The song tells of disappointment, as the lyrics, "Don''t know why there''s no sun up in the sky", show someone pining for her man to return. The weather is a metaphor for the feelings of the singer: "stormy weather since my man and I ain''t together, keeps raining all the time."
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