Hot 100 Record-Breaker Fred Stobaugh, 97, Returns With New Song
After becoming the senior-most artist ever to appear on the Hot 100 last year, the beloved songwriter releases follow-up 'Took Her Home,' a second tribute to his late love, Lorraine
A year ago this month, "Oh Sweet Lorraine" spent a week on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 42. Credited to Green Shoe Studio featuring Jacob Colgan and Fred Stobaugh, the entry was no common hit.
At the time, Stobaugh, the song's writer, was 96 years old, granting him the honor of the oldest artist ever to appear on the Hot 100. Stobaugh passed icon Tony Bennett, who was 85 years and two months old when "Body and Soul," with Amy Winehouse, spent a week on the survey (No. 87; Oct. 1, 2011).
Now, Stobaugh, who turned 97 on Aug. 22, has released a follow-up, "Took Her Home," written with Colgan (who, as on "Lorraine," handles vocals). Again, the inspiration for Stobaugh's poetry: his late wife, Lorraine, his wife of 72 years, who passed away in April 2013.
"He didn't take her away, He just took her home," Colgan sings in the new recording, whose lyric video premiered Aug. 29. "I see her empty chair, but that don't mean I'm alone.
"No, He's keeping her safe and He's keeping her warm, 'til I show up and call heaven my own.
"He didn't take her away, He just took her home."
Fred and Lorraine’s daughter, Val Stobaugh-Mason, was moved upon hearing "Home," as she was at her first listen to "Lorraine." "There was no way I thought a follow-up song could be as good [as 'Lorraine']. We sat there and listened to it probably four times before anyone could even speak."
FRED & 'LORRAINE'
Before "Home," "Lorraine" made history on the Hot 100 from the unlikeliest of origins.
Stobaugh wrote the song and entered it in an online contest. As Peoria, Ill.-based Green Shoe Studio CEO and producer Colgan explains in the official documentary video of the song (a now six-part series that has drawn more than 6.7 million YouTube views), "Lorraine" stood out at first simply for the way in which Stobaugh submitted it.
"People were supposed to upload their videos," Colgan says. "But, instead of a video, we received a very large manila envelope. 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."
"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 how he came to write the song. "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 the studio would "take [Fred's] lyrics and bring them to life." Stobaugh was moved to tears.
A year later, "Lorraine" made history on the Hot 100 and has sold 190,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Ultimately, however, the ballad is simply a love letter set to music from a devoted husband who misses the love of his life.
"She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw," Stobaugh recalls in the studio's documentary of his first impression of his then-future bride.
"I just fell in love with her right there."
Should "Home" reach the Hot 100, Stobaugh would rewrite his piece of distinguished chart history.
(Upon learning of last year's success with "Lorraine," Stobaugh said to Colgan, "Do you know about this Justin Timberlake guy? Evidently, I've passed him by.")
Regardless, "Home," like "Lorraine," transcends any potential chart positions, standing as a tribute to a love whose legacy was evident, and undeniable, from the start.
"Back in 1938, at a root beer stand they had their first date," Colgan sings in "Home" of the pair that would marry two years later. "It's kind of crazy that they knew right then, that they'd be together 'til the very end.
"Looking back at the years in between, he said ... 'It sure came together like a perfect dream.' "