Fred Stobaugh is no musician (in fact, he freely admits his lack of melody), but he’s penned a love song that has inspired countless men and women around the world.
“Oh Sweet Lorraine” is an ode to Stobaugh’s late wife, Lorraine, who recently passed. The couple had been together for over 75 years, having met in 1938, at an A.W. root beer stand where Lorraine was working as a car hop.
“She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw. She was real timid like, but I just fell in love with her right there,” Stobaugh says in a video released by Green Shoe Studio, a local recording company based in Peoria, Illinois. Green Shoe recorded and produced Stobaugh’s song and put it up on iTunes.
How does a 96-year-old man with no musical experience get his song on iTunes?
He tells an unforgettable story to the right people.
What started as a guerilla marketing campaign for Green Shoe soon turned in to something much more profound. The studio hosted an online singer/songwriter contest for local artists. Participants would upload videos of themselves preforming songs they wrote onto YouTube, and the studio would select one winner whose song they would produce and record.
They received many online submissions, but what really caught their attention was the manila folder that found its way to the studio via regular mail. There was no recording, just lyrics and a letter, signed by Stobaugh; “P.S. I don’t sing; I would scare people, haha.”
The letter told the tale of a couple who spent three quarters of a century in love, only to be recently parted by death. Stobaugh penned the lyrics for the song during a moment of quiet contemplation in his living room. “It just came right to me almost and I just kept humming it and it seemed to just fit her.”
He saw the advertisement for the singer/songwriter contest and sent in his submission, not anticipating any sort of response.
But, a little while later, he did receive an answer in the form of a telephone call from Jacob Colgan, producer at Green Shoe. Colgan informed Stobaugh that he wanted to professionally record and produce the song.
Money was the older man’s first concern—he didn’t have any to spare.
Colgan assured him that cost wasn’t an issue. “He began to cry on the phone and said, ‘Why would you do this for me?’ I told him, ‘It’s not that we’re doing this for you, it’s that we’re doing this together. Music means so much to so many people, and your song touched us and we feel that this is the best way to do this.’”
Colgan was uncharacteristically nervous when he finally presented Stobaugh with the official recording of, “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” but the older man loved it.
Nothing can take away the pain of losing a lifelong love, but Lorraine’s memory lives on, not only in the form of a song, but, more importantly, in the heart of her devoted husband. “It was a wonderful 75 years that I just often think, it’s kind of unreal. I was dreaming, or something. But, it was real, that’s all I can say, it was real. Yep, I really miss her, it just doesn’t seem right, just like a dream.”
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