Fred Stobaugh, 96, Charts With Viral Hit 'Lorraine'
After submitting the seemingly unlikeliest winning entry for a songwriting contest, his touching love song to his late wife has found an online audience of millions … and debuts on Billboard's Rock Digital Songs sales chart
A surprising, endearing title enters Billboard's Rock Digital Songs chart, as "Oh Sweet Lorraine" by Green Shoe Studio featuring Jacob Colgan & Fred Stobaugh begins at No. 49 with 6,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Stobaugh, the song's writer, is 96 years old.
Stobaugh wrote "Lorraine" for his wife of 72 years, who passed away in April, and entered it in an online contest. As Peoria, Ill.-based Green Shoe Studio producer Colgan explains in the official documentary video clip of the song, which has drawn 1.6 million YouTube views since its July 19 posting, never mind the song itself: "Lorraine" stood out at first simply from the way in which Stobaugh submitted it.
"What made Fred's entry so special to us was, one, it's an online contest. People are supposed to upload their videos," Colgan says. "But, instead of a video, we received a very large manila envelope. Well, I was excited to see what it was. Lo and behold, it was a letter from a 96-year-old man who said, 'I've written a song for my wife.' "
Colgan recalls that Stobaugh admitted in the letter that he's not a musician or a singer. "P.S.: I don't sing. It would scare people, ha ha," Stobaugh noted.
"So, it's a letter from a 96-year-old man. He sounds like a sweet guy," Colgan says. "But, as I'm reading through the letter, I begin to realize that his wife had just passed away a month earlier."
"He titled [the song] 'Oh Sweet Lorraine.' Listening to the passion behind the lyrics, it was just so heartwarming."
Stobaugh remembers the song's origin. "Well, after she passed away, I was just sitting in the front room one evening by myself … it just [came] to me. I kept humming it."
"Oh, sweet Lorraine, I wish we could do the good times all over again," he wrote.
"It just seemed like it fit her."
Moved by the song's touching backstory, Green Shoe Studio chose to record it.
"We decided we were going to do this without even meeting Fred," Colgan says. He then called Stobaugh and informed him that Green Shoe Studio would record "Lorraine" and "take Fred's lyrics and bring them to life." Stobaugh was moved to tears.
Upon its completion, Stobaugh marvels at his letter-turned-song that has now touched millions.
"It's … wonderful …," he says in the documentary as he listens to the recording for the first time. Emotion seems to keep him from revealing more.
That the song is selling, garnering YouTube clicks and making the rounds of social media is a testament to the fact that "music means so much to so many people," Colgan says.
Ultimately, however, "Lorraine" is simply a love letter set to music from a devoted husband who misses his best friend and the love of his life.
"She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw," Stobaugh recalls of his first impression of his then-future bride in 1938.
"I just fell in love with her right there."