Gene Eugene… I was never fortunate enough to see him live. I never saw The Lost Dogs when Gene was with them, nor was I ever able to see Adam Again play live. Nevertheless, Gene had an incredible impact on my life through his music, through his frailty and brokenness, and through the countless albums that he worked on. I have scoured the internet looking for a list of everything Gene worked on but I couldn’t find anything comprehensive. I did find an old article that said he worked on over 300 projects, I somehow bet it was more than that. His impact was far and wide, and the music that he engineered, produced and wrote is still some of the most definitive in Christian music. Gene was a music machine. He lived in his Green Room Studio and according to everyone that I have talked to, he was always there working on something for someone.
When Matt and I started Down The Line, I knew several people who I wanted to feature in our pages. Gene was one of the first. It was difficult to figure out what to do… how to write a story and article on someone that I never knew, but someone that I knew was so dear to so many. I figured the best thing was to get contributions from as many of his friends as I could. Then came the task of trying to get in touch with a lot of musicians, and Lord knows they all carry extremely busy schedules. This story has been months in the making and the more I gathered the info, the more I thought about Gene. His Mom, Carole, has been extremely generous with me, sending me photos and sharing stories. I am grateful to her for all her help, and to top it off she also trusted me with the original photos from her scrapbook. She mailed them to me and we got them in digital format here on our end. It felt like such a precarious place to be, asking Carole about her son, asking Gene’s friends about him. It is never easy to deal with the death of a loved one, but I felt like an insider digging into a sensitive area. So I offer my many thanks to everyone who helped me in this story. Thanks for letting me, a fan, learn more about Gene and who he was. I hope that you, the reader, will be inspired as well.
Gene was born on April 6, 1961 in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. He was the oldest of four children. Lisa, Gene’s sister, was born the following year on April 22, 1962. Jana Lyn was born the third child, but due to a very difficult pregnancy, she didn’t survive and never came out of the incubator. In 1968 Gene’s parents started adoption proceedings and they became parents to Todd in 1969. Todd was 8 years younger than Gene, and as Carole put it, “attached to Gene’s coattails.” Unfortunately, Todd passed away in 2004, and Lisa is the only surviving sibling. In talking with Carole she told me that Gene was Todd’s mentor, and that the three siblings had a very close relationship. Carole said, “Gene would lock his bedroom door at times just to get a break from his brother… but for the most part, he loved him dearly and put up with his tagging along. When they became adults they were the best of friends, and Todd never got over Gene’s death. We all mourn in different ways, but I have never seen anyone as lost as Todd after Gene‘s passing.”
As most know, Gene was a child actor, and had numerous roles in several TV shows, maybe most famous was the Bewitched episode in which he played a young Darren. Gene also starred in plays, one in which he was the son of Steve Martin. He was a good student, a boy scout and even the valedictorian of his high school class, but it was music that would become his passion and his career.
There was something about the chemistry in Adam Again. I remember the first time I heard their music (it was the Homeboys album) and it was so eclectic that I didn’t even know what to think at first. It was so diverse… an amalgamation of pop, funk, soul, R&B and rock fused together in this blend that was unlike anything else that I had ever heard. The thing that drew me in was Gene’s lyrics. They were honest and intense, and for Christian music they were refreshing. There was a camaraderie in his lyrics, between races, between his friends. His songs were socially relevant as well as politically tinged, and he talked about things that you didn’t typically hear in Christian music (just check out his cover of “Inner City Blues”). His lyrics hit a depth that is not easy to dig to. Songs like “Bad News on the Radio” could really put the listener in the place where they felt what he was singing about. Gene was an artist, and had the ability to vocalize a scenario in ways that not many can. I still cry when I hear “Relapse,” and thankfully I was able to ask Greg Lawless about that song which is my favorite Adam Again tune.
As I stated earlier it is difficult to write about those people that we have admired who have gone on before us. It is easy to put people on a pedestal when we don’t know them and only see them in part, typically only the part they want us to see. This is not an attempt to make Gene seem like someone that was perfect… he wasn’t. Carole sent me an email one day that said, “One concern about your article is that I want Gene to look like the human being he was. He wasn’t a saint and he certainly made mistakes. One of the things that was mentioned at his funeral is that he would always borrow money from his band members and never pay it back. We are talking about huge amounts, but it was a standard joke, he never seemed to have any money in his pocket at any one time. Gene was witty and funny, but very human and like all of us had his bad sides. Just be careful and make him look real.” So, this is not an attempt to “canonize” Gene. I think his struggles were clear in many of his songs, he sang about them, and you can hear the searching in his voice. This is just an attempt at remembrance, a small way of trying to say thanks to the artist that Gene was.
In writing this story I asked for help, contributions from some of Gene’s dearest friends, family and band mates. Below are the responses, how Gene will be remembered by those who knew him best, and by those of us who were touched by his music. Not everyone that was contacted for the article was able to respond by the deadline. It isn’t easy to get in touch with some folks, and I regret that I wasn’t able to get Derri Daughtery of The Lost Dogs in here. Even so, the list below were people that I thought knew Gene very well, had worked with him for a long time, and I am grateful that they all helped out and were so gracious with me.