Every song I had ever written, or attempted to write, had been a solo effort. I would have thought that somewhere along the line I might have had the opportunity and privilege of co-authoring at least one tune with one of my life-long musician friends… Phil Bayle, Joe Dinorica or Dick Layton. But unfortunately, that was not to be.
The draught finally ended about a year ago when a very talented young musician whom I met through my former bandmate, Joe Dinorcia asked me to work with him on a song he was writing. His name is Francesco Stabile, an extremely talented guitarist from Italy. Francesco had written an extended and beautifully haunting guitar part and asked me to take a stab at writing both a melody and lyrics for it. I had seen Francesco perform live with a very talented young singer, Cara Dinorcia (Joe’s daughter) and was impressed by the duo’s virtuosity and chemistry. Thus, I was truly honored when Francesco asked for my help while at the same time somewhat concerned that I might not be capable of doing his song justice. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly albeit nervously jumped into the task at hand.
When I first sat down with my girlfriend, Lydia Yu and listened to Francesco’s guitar solo, I turned to her after taking in a few bars of music and said simply, “Tragic love”. For me, Francesco’s guitar seemed to be crying out almost incredulously, “Why?… Why?”. It was the intensity of that guitar solo, coupled with Francesco’s playing style, that pointed me confidently in that thematic direction. To my delight, Lydia instinctively shook her head in the affirmative and I knew that would be the creative path I would follow for the song.
So now I had to find a melody consistent with Francesco’s guitar hook… that intensely haunting D chord that would repeat itself throughout the final song. Fortunately, it came to me relatively quickly… “There’s something in the air, this night,” I whispered. From that point on I knew the title of the song would be This Night and the melody fell into place shortly thereafter. Of course, I had to rearrange the sequence of Francesco’s guitar parts to conform to my melody. And one or two of Francesco’s guitar licks never made it into the final version. But in the end, I was very happy with the marriage of Francesco’s beautifully haunting guitar solo and the melody I had created. But now came the critical part of the creative process that would bring the song together and create a unified and complete emotional experience for the listener. I needed to craft the appropriate lyrics to make the song work both thematically and synergistically with the music.
When I sat down to begin writing the lyrics for This Night, all I had in my head was the first line of the first verse, “There’s something in the air, this night.” I immediately decided that the song’s lyrics should answer, if not, resolve the question I was hearing from Francesco’s intensely haunting guitar, “Why? Why?”. So for inspiration, I reached back to a time in my young life when I found myself asking that very same question.
The day was February 12, Washington’s Birthday. It was a briskly cold and gray holiday morning. I was an undergraduate freshman at NYU living in Queens, NY with my family. And my girlfriend and I decided to take advantage of the break from classes and venture into the Village for lunch and whatever else might come our way. I was looking forward to possibly meeting up with some of the guys and girls with whom I grew up in The Village and introducing them to my girlfriend. We had been seeing each other for about six months and I had assumed that our relationship was very solid.
Well I am sure most of you instinctively know by now where this is going. Well, not only did this young lady break up with me that gray February morning, but she also admitted to seeing someone else during our time together. Why the charade? I will never know. But it was this long-ago memory, my first true experience with affairs of the heart, to which I now turned in order to find the lyrical inspiration for This Night. Tragic love… The words began to flow effortlessly. It was a perfect fit.
I then mixed all three ingredients (Francesco’s re-sequenced guitar parts together with my newly minted melody and lyrics) and created a modest demo in my home recording studio. The purpose of the demo was simply to highlight for Francesco the song’s melody and lyrics with the understanding that it still needed to be professionally recorded, arranged and produced. It was then that my worse fear became reality. Francesco’s initial reaction was far from enthusiastic and I was crushed! However to his credit, once Francesco heard the final produced album track of This Night, his opinion of the song changed dramatically. He was now happy with the collaboration and I was relieved… both artistically and personally. For the last thing I wanted to do was to disappoint my friend.
So an artistic adventure that had begun with such great trepidation on my part ended with the indescribable joy of creating a beautifully haunting song that hopefully others will enjoy and appreciate. My sincere gratitude to you, Francesco for your indispensable role in making my first experience in the challenging world of collaborative song writing a rewarding and fulfilling one both artistically and personally.
You are a true friend to have trusted me with such a gift…