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Baltimore, Maryland

Raining in Baltimore by Counting Crows

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There's things I remember and things I forget
I miss you
Guess that I should
Baltimore Harbor
Adam Duritz found fame as the front man and lead singer for the popular alternative rock band Counting Crows. Known for his ultra-personal and introspective lyrics, Duritz has built his reputation on his honest and poignant themes, double meanings, and his ability to tug at his listeners’ heart strings. "Raining in Baltimore" (the tenth cut on their debut album) is no exception. Duritz was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in August 1964 (the album's title, August and Everything After, is a reference to Duritz’s birth and life that followed). However, he connected with the other members of the Crows while in California. Officially, the band hails from Berkeley and has lived in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as El Paso, Texas.

Nicknamed the Charm City, and actually named for Lord Baltimore Cecilius Calvert, Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, as well as one of the oldest. Founded in 1729, the city played a key role during the Revolutionary War, and a battle was fought there during the War of 1812, The Battle of Baltimore, inspired Francis Scott Key to compose The Star Spangled Banner as he witnessed, from a ship in the harbor, the stars and stripes flying high over the burning buildings. Perhaps there is something inherent about the city itself that breeds poetry. It’s definitely something Scott Key and Duritz share in common. When he was younger, the Crows’ lead vocalist was diagnosed with Depersonalization Disorder, or DPD, a mental disorder that manifests itself in a person by intense feelings of detachment. It is common in those who suffer from this disorder to have trouble keeping a grip on reality. That much is evident in many of Duritz’s songs, but very specifically, "Raining in Baltimore."

The lyrics set the stage of a lonely man in the middle of nowhere. The melancholy narrator is obviously miserable, as he’s isolated from all of his friends and family. The listener immediately feels sympathy for the man. However, after multiple plays it becomes clear the narrator has done it to himself. Yes, he’s miserable and lonely, but he’s choosing to be where he is. For all we know, it’s easier for him to be there than surrounded by loved ones, though we’re not exactly sure why.
The Inner Harbor, Baltimore at night
(thanks, Mark Goebel)
You get what you pay for, but I just had no intention of living this way. This line implies that the narrator intended to isolate himself, and while he misses his loved ones, maybe even a girlfriend or wife, he can’t stomach the idea of going back to civilization to work, breed, and die (that’s a bit of speculation and extrapolation). Additionally, the lyrics are chock full of metaphors and double meanings. The melodic but dirgelike chorus repeats, I need a phone call. I need a raincoat. I need a plane ride. I need a sunburn. A phone call is a reference to connections. The narrator simply wants some company. He wants to reach out and touch somebody, a friend or relative. A raincoat is a reference to the rain deep within his soul. He needs protection from his depression. A plane ride and a sunburn are most likely a reference to his need to escape, whether it be for a vacation or permanently. It’s raining in Baltimore. However, elsewhere the sun still shines.

Another line that might lead a listener to believe Duritz is singing about a long distance lover is, Three thousand five hundred miles away, but what would you change if you could? Since he grew up bicoastal, it’s safe to assume that, while he’s stuck in Baltimore, he left someone special in California, three thousand miles across the country. Regardless of who he’s singing to or about, the words and melodies fall heavy on the listener’s heart.

Personally, this song holds special meaning for me, having lived overseas for years at a time. Life becomes difficult when you isolate yourself, not only from loved ones and friends, but also in a society full of communication barriers. It is difficult to connect with a community that can’t understand you when you speak your primary language. I know exactly how the narrator of "Raining in Baltimore" feels since, like him, I chose to live abroad.

August and Everything After (1993) hit No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 and since that time the band has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. I can only hope that even though Duritz once felt this detached from everyone he loved, he now feels connected through the success of Counting Crows music and their millions of fans.
~ Justin Novelli

Comments: 3

  • Kal615 from IllinoisMy father just died unexpectedly. 2 weeks later I’m back at work, I walk outside between buildings on a Grey day. 35k songs on my iPod and this one comes on random as it starts pouring during the 25yards between buildings. I swear I felt my dad and I cried in the rain.
  • Jo from Adelaide, South AustraliaJustin, thanks for your thought provoking interpretation. I too have adored this song since I first heard it but could never pinpoint why. Nostalgia, longing, pining...it's all there in this song for me. "3,500 miles away" always hits me in the core of my being.

    I really, really need a raincoat sometimes too
  • Stephen Carter from Frankenmuth, MiThe lyrics of this song have spoken to me, loudly, since the album was released. I never really understood why, but after reading your interpretation set forth above, it's much clearer to me now. I also lived away from family and friends for many years. And although it was of my choosing, and even though I had good friends where I was, I always had a longing for the family and friends that I left back in my hometown, my home state. Similarly, there are a couple of "big loves" in my past that I have longed for as well. And, now that I've come full circle and I'm living back in my home state, with my family, I find that most of my friends have moved on, or have their own lives, and I realize my longing is for the friendships that we had in the past. Unfortunately I too need a raincoat to protect me from my bouts of depression. Thank you for your interpretation of this song.
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