“Walk between the raindrops if you can… what the heck does that mean?” I remember the conversation well – it was sometime around 1992 in San Antonio, TX. A group of college students had gone out to change the world by repainting a church in the poorer part of town. We had been told that a few hours after we packed up and left for the day that a gang fight had broken out around the corner and someone had been shot. Sobering news like that leads to deeper conversations. I was talking with the leader of our group, an awesome character by the name of Tim. Our group was made up of your typical college church crowd, so we spent the day listening to typical college church crowd music – Susan Ashton, Steven Curtis Chapman, D.C.Talk, etc. Tim and I had been lamenting the need to play some meatier music. Tim mused: “I wonder what they would think if we played some Adam Again? ‘Walk between the rains drops if you can’… ‘what the heck does that mean?’ Or The 77s… ‘The rain kept falling in love’… ‘what?’ That would drive them crazy!”
Gene Eugene had that unique gift as a writer. He could pen songs that you instantly understood at one level, and then realized that there was a whole other level you were probably missing. Even songs about the electricity getting cut off before a bunch a friends came over made you stop and wonder “am I missing some deeper point about the depravity of man?” Maybe it was just that voice – that mournful tone of his. Maybe I was just reading too much into it. Then someone sent me a bootleg concert where Gene sung his version of the Dolly Parton song (made famous by Whitney Houston) “I Will Always Love You.” I thought that was a simple love song, until Gene pointed out that there was some deep stuff there. So maybe I’m not just reading too much into any of his songs.
And not to mention how they stick in your head. Every time it starts raining I start humming one of those two songs about rain in my head. One when it is a light, refreshing spring storm, and the other when it is a dark, brooding thunderstorm. If you have heard both songs about rain mentioned above, then you probably know which one comes to mind in which situation.
I even got to the point where I thought that there are some rain storms where you can walk between the raindrops if you try. Then I got caught in a monsoon rain in India… a wall of water falling on you from the sky. And that song came to mind. Yet another layer of that simple lyric became real to me.
I never met Gene, but I get the impression that he was all about layers. I’ve read several interviews with friends of his that attest to the fact that no one quite knew the same Gene. He revealed different aspects of himself to different people, as Steve Hindalong pointed out once. Mostly this magazine issue has covered feedback from people that knew and worked with Gene. But the other side of the coin is Gene’s fans. Each one of knows a different layer of Gene, revealed through his deep and personal lyrics. Personal in how we all interpret them as much as how they gave us a glimpse into Gene’s personal life.
Maybe you never had to deal with the electricity going out, but you have had to deal with the frustration of something going wrong and getting in the way of some plans. It just crawls under your skin that you are out of control of so many things in life. And for some reason, Gene covers that and so much more when he says “all my friends are coming over.”
Really? The non-fan might ask. “That line doesn’t say anything about any of that.” It’s not in what he says; it’s in the tone and inflection of how he says it. I’ve listened to entire albums that technically said less than that one line communicated.
Sadly, that voice, that wordsmith is gone… leaving us only five albums worth of material to dig through. There is enough there in those five albums to last a lifetime, but we also wanted more. It is what it is what is. Perfecta and leaving us craving more all at the same time.
(this post was also published in the Gene Eugene Tribute issue)
Tags: Gene Eugene