A cliché is only a cliché when it’s a lazy idea. When it’s not—when the idea is masked in a raw, contemporary relevance which hides under a strong melody and effusive vocals—then it’s genius. Such is the case with The Benjy Davis Project’s “The Rain.” Released as the lead track on the band’s 2007 album Dust, “Rain” draws us in with Davis’ upper-baritone which comes off as a “beautiful moan,” the final syllables often trailing off as if supplicating to us. In the opening stanza, Davis’ speaker points out the obvious fact that life fights us…all the time:
Some days go on forever;
Sometimes the weatherman says rain.
We’ve all had days staring blankly out the window,
Watching all the plans we made go down the drain.
The first cliché slides past us, mostly because the water-related mixed-metaphor hammers us with its basic truth. Four lines in, the theme is set, and we’ve listened. We immediately think about the day we wrecked the van, or the year the business failed, or the divorce, or the death of a parent. We’ve all been there.
Progressing from a typically bad day (and the manner in which we try to calm down those we love from the ledge of anxiety) to monumental catastrophe (later in the song the New Orleans band overtly hints to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina), Davis’s vocals allow us to connect to a truth much deeper than the pessimistic tone echoed in the opening stanza:
Well, I’ll get around to it when the sky turns blue, but
‘Til then it’s gonna have to wait.
I’ll do it, love to do it for you baby,
But I can’t turn off the rain.
And it’s hard to be patient when you’re waiting at the station,
Worrying never did anything.
I’ll do it for you baby but I can’t turn off the rain, rain, rain.
Most of the hell which rains upon us (literally in this case) is misery we can’t avoid. Despair we can’t maneuver around. All we can do is wait. We’ve all heard our grandparents, the only people in our lives who can actually practice the wisdom of patience, tell us there is little point in fretting over forces of the universe which vastly outsize us. Sage as the advice may be, we ignore it repeatedly, and we worry. We worry about whether the snow will cancel our flight, or if the drought will kill the soybeans. But there’s nothing for it. And while this seemingly Anglo-Saxon sort of fatalism is certainly a better turn the open fatalism in the first lines, “Rain” seeps to the song’s evocative and personal epiphany in the form of that masked cliché.
Disaster has struck. The speaker and his love have lost everything. But all that they’ve lost had no intrinsic value. What they still have—here’s the cliché—is each other, and sooner or later better weather is due.
The decade following Katrina stands as powerful evidence that life, despite all our efforts to paint it as perpetually Cinderella in nature, is series of slugfests against economic, societal, personal, and internal forces all seemingly conspiring at times to do us in. But “The Rain” reminds us that shaking our fists at the tumor inside us or spouting profanities at the flooding river doesn’t stop either one from growing. Fighting is part of our biographies, but the ones who have the greatest stories to tell are the ones who’ve learned to wait out the storms.
Cover Photo Credits: Tim McLaughlin, Hapless Guitar Photography
The image, Benjy Davis Project – Dust.jpg, is being linked here; though the picture is subject to copyright we feel it is covered by the U.S. fair use laws because:
- it is a low resolution copy of a CD album cover;
- it does not limit the copyright owner’s rights to sell the CD album in any way;
- copies could not be used to make illegal copies of the album artwork on another CD;
- the image on the cover is significant because it was made by a famous artist, Benjy Davis Project.