The Rainy Season (30 Days of Marc Cohn — Day 18)

The Rainy Season
The Rainy Season

The Rainy Season is not a happy album and “The Rainy Season” is not a happy song. While Marc Cohn held a wide mix of songs and styles, Cohn’s sophomore album is generally dark. What comes through more than anything is how hard love can be to maintain, especially when you’re on the road and apart for large stretches.

Clouds move in
From off the horizon
Feels like nighttime
In the middle of the day

This is a nice working of metaphor, which will extend to the refrain and indeed the entire album. Not only does he evoke memories of actual storms really well, but the threat of the future is pretty palpable here. When it gets dark in the middle of the dark, it’s not just any old storm. We’re talking flash-flood thunderstorm activity, something with lots of lightning and thunder and howling wind.

And I don’t know why
But it’s still so suprisin’
How a love grows stronger
Or it just fades away

The segue to the relationship is smooth, so smooth you hardly notice how much it hurts. He’s clearly not writing about a love growing stronger, is he?

But you look older today
Than I’ve ever seen you

I’m not expect on relationships, but things rarely go well when you tell your lover, “You look older than I’ve ever seen you”. But it’s a bit more than that: She looks older today — something’s changed, something that’s bringing the rain.

I think I know the reason

While I’m just making this up, I’ve always assumed that “the reason” is that she’s found out he’s cheated on her. (I think that’s backed up by “Paper Walls”) That’s the culmination of a process, of course, but the cheating (and her discovery of it) provide the singular act that cause her to look older today.

We might wash all our tears away
But you got to bundle up baby
For the rainy season

Here he’s holding out the hope — thin as even he sees it must be — that this won’t be the end of things. They might get through, wiping away their tears. But it’s going to take a storm to do it, and she’s got to be ready to walk through that storm.

I hear you breathing heavy
On the telephone tonight
I can feel the air is thick as thieves

If he’s calling her on the telephone, I’m not exactly sure how he knows she looks older today than he’s ever seen her. But let that slide. This line implies (to me) that he’s cheated; she knows he’s cheated; he knows she knows he’s cheated — but no one has said or confessed anything. That’s why the clouds are stil gathering. The unspoken accusation trembles in the air; it’s why he can feel the storm coming. Moreover, this opens the possibility that she doesn’t know and he’s just projecting his guilt.

Sometimes I just want to tell you
We’ll be all right
At least that’s what some part of me believes

Here, the forlorn hopefulness is just heartbreaking. He’s trying to offer comfort but he has none and (in my theory) it’s his own fault. He wants to think they can weather the storm but he knows, deep down, it’s unlikely.

Oh, oh I’ve been holding on so long
Holding on and holding on so long
Oh, oh I’ve been holding on so long

It’s interesting that he focuses on how long he‘s been holding on. This might upend my model of the relationship. Maybe the root cause lies with her. Or maybe he’s trying to justify his own failures. In the live version (which I prefer to the studio version), there’s an interesting twist: He says he’s “been holding on so long — holding on maybe just a little too long“. That signals, to me, that he’s come to understand things aren’t going to work out and that it’s been unhealthy for a long time.

All in all, you have to wonder what his wife thought when this song and album came out.

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