The varied and complex career of Oran “Juice” Jones is one that deserves to be better known. Having served as a naval sniper (!) before starting a career as a modestly successful R&B singer only adds menace to one of my favorite R&B songs of the 1980s, his only hit, “The Rain.” While I was driving this evening I heard the song played on the top 40 countdown, as it was #14 this week on the charts on its way to a #9 peak, the song being his only R&B #1 (or top 40 for that matter), as well as the only top ten he managed on the Hot 100 (only entry), the dance charts, as well as the UK charts. It is not hard to figure out why the song caught on, only more of a mystery how someone as deadly smooth as he was to record that song never managed to capture the same amount of success again.
In terms of its structure, “The Rain” can be divided into two parts, and it is the blend of the two parts that makes the song special for me. The first part of the song is more or less a standard quiet storm R&B ballad, with Jones crooning about how he saw his girl walking in the rain with another guy, holding hands, and that he will never be the same, giving a description of the sleeplessness that led him to drive out on a rainy night and catch his partner creeping on the down low. The song is really taken to the next level, though, by the second part of the song, an extended spoken word outro that shows Jones telling his unfaithful partner how he responded to her cheating ways, returning all of the expensive stuff he bought for her, canceling her credit cards and charge accounts, demanding the fur coat back that she was wearing when she cheated, and then giving her some advice on how to live better in the future, showing his mastery of his temper, but also some deadly wit and a cold and calculating sense of revenge.
The song itself highlights one of the classic aspects of being a man, and that is the mix between kindness and recognizing one’s emotions and mastering them and controlling them. If all we had was the first half of the song, we would have an emotional outpouring of grief that might seem too much like a simp anthem, something not masculine enough to be worthy of our respect or admiration, or emulation for that matter. If we only had the second part, though, while we would find more to respect, it would be a somewhat cold song about how to deal with an unfaithful lover through dismissing her and removing from her all of the items she had gained in the relationship. By seeing both parts together, we see how a man can feel deeply, but not let his emotions govern him–either his emotions of sadness over the unfaithfulness of an apparently much younger partner who might be trying to use him for his generosity but feel no duty of faithfulness, or his emotions of anger, either of which could lead one astray.
One is led in the song to wonder more about the artist. Did Jones base the song on his own personal experience or observation or imagination? Why was he never able to craft another song that had even remotely the same degree of success as “The Rain,” despite recording three more albums in a career that lasted around a decade? What successful relationship(s) did the singer have before retiring that led him to have two children who themselves have chosen the music business for themselves? Does knowing Jones’ military career and potential deadliness make it even more ridiculous that someone would put themselves in his crosshairs by being as foolish as the girl in the song? Is his career worth exploring in greater detail aside from his most excellent hit? If any of you dear readers happen to know more about the career of Oran “Juice” Jones, I’d be curious to hear about it.