An unassuming love letter-turned-song has become a historic hit, as “Oh Sweet Lorraine” by Green Shoe Studio featuring Jacob Colgan and Fred Stobaugh debuts on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 42. The song swells to 100,000 downloads sold (up from 6,000), according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Stobaugh, the song’s writer, is 96 years old, making him the oldest artist to appear on the Hot 100 in the chart’s 55-year archives. He bests 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).
Beyond any records, however, “Lorraine” seems most meaningful for its subject matter.
Stobaugh wrote “Lorraine” for his wife of 72 years, who died in April, and entered it in Peoria, Ill.-based Green Shoe Studio’s songwriting contest. As Green Shoe Studio CEO/producer Colgan explains in the official documentary video for the song, which has drawn 3 million YouTube views since its July 19 posting, “Lorraine” stood out at first simply for how Stobaugh submitted it.
“It’s an online contest. People [were] supposed to upload their videos,” Colgan says. “But we received a manila envelope. Lo and behold, it was a letter from a 96-year-old man who said, ‘I’ve written a song for my [late] wife.’ Listening to the passion behind the lyrics, it was just so heartwarming.”
Stobaugh remembers the song’s origin. “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. It just seemed like it fit her.”
Moved by the song’s touching back story, Green Shoe Studio chose to record it. “We decided we were going to do this without even meeting Fred,” says Colgan, who now talks to Stobaugh “every day.” When Colgan first called Stobaugh to inform him of the plan, he was moved to tears.
“We thought that the documentary might do well,” Colgan says of the nearly nine-and-a-half-minute clip produced by Green Shoe Studio’s Jon and Oceanna Colgan. “But we never expected the song to hit the charts. We’re freaking out. But really, we’re honored that we’ve been able to do this for the love of Fred’s life.”
Colgan adds that Stobaugh has since submitted a second song, another “real tear-jerker,” which Green Shoe Studio might also record.
For now, Stobaugh, too, is marveling at the chart company he’s suddenly keeping — and topping. Colgan says, “Fred just said to me, ‘Do you know about this Justin Timberlake guy? Evidently I’ve passed him by.'”