Today I received a quite a few inbox messages and social media tags from my friends asking if I’d seen/heard Juan Gabriel’s new cover and video of “Have you ever seen the rain?,” a great song popularized by the even greater band Creedence Clearwater Revival. I figured this is a good opportunity to update Rictus, which neither José or myself have done in a while — and both of us have a good reason but we’ll talk about it some other time — and also to vent some of my anxiety with the recent Juan Gabriel’s Dúo records.
First, a bit about this cover, according to Billboard:
The 66-year-old leading Mexican singer-songwriter, who won the Top Latin Album honor for his Latin chart-topping duets set Los Dúo at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, penned his own Spanish version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” titled “Gracias al Sol.” The sunnier take on the John Fogerty song that foreshadowed the 1972 break up of CCR will be included on the bilingual album Quiero Creedence, a Latin tribute to the Bay Area hitmakers, set for release by Concord Picante on July 29.
In case you haven’t seen or heard the song, here ya go:
Okay, the bad: I hate the way Juan Gabriel hippie’d up the song. The original lyrics are melancholic and sad, and they go great with the song’s melody:
“I want to know: have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?”
But for some odd reason, Juan “the meteorologist” Gabriel robbed some poor weather girl of her cue cards and presented his loot as song lyrics:
“No, today is neither hot nor cold. The weather is good thanks to the sun.”
Unsurprisingly, Juaga’s sunny attitude seems to be in line with the unnerving optimism which has stunk up his Dúo records. Like a lonely, depressed aunt who doubles up on her antidepressants during family gatherings, he’s creeping people out by being overly cheery and motherly.
The good? Lyrics not withstanding, the cover is actually decent, and Juanga’s outfit is fucking amazing. Also, this is the first time in a very long time that we actually get to see him in a more conventional frontman role. Unlike most of Juan Gabriel’s performances, where there’s always some 100 person band in the background, here Gabriel is actually part of the band, similar to the way Morrissey presents himself with his bandmates. Sure, Juanga and Morrissey are always gonna get top billing over anybody else, but in “Gracias al sol” the “Divo de Juarez” positions himself as part of the gang, as one of the boys.
But the real takeaway here is that Juan Gabriel doesn’t need to make shitty collaborations in order to hold our attention. Even if this is a questionably-translated cover, Juanga still dazzles, still fascinates. All he has to do now is get back to making music for himself and by himself.