If you haven’t already heard about Fred Stobaugh and the love song he wrote for his wife of more than 70 years, then you are in for a treat. This is a story of love, loss, an outpouring of creativity, and support from the community to bring that creative effort into a beautiful musical form.
Ninety-six-year-old Fred Stobaugh met his wife at an A&W Root Beer stand in 1938. They were married for almost 73 years before she died, just a few months ago.
Let’s take a pause here to acknowledge the enormity of that loss. Sometimes I think we younger folks assume (or hope) that dealing with the loss of loved ones somehow gets easier for older people. It’s so much more routine then, right? In reality, though, anyone who has been through the loss of a spouse or partner or child or sibling or dear friend knows how hard it is to get back to “normal” life after that. (I wrote another post on that after my grandmother’s death.)
So Fred Stobaugh had just lost his partner in life, with whom he had spent the vast majority of his life. On a lonely evening about a month after her passing, the words to his song “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” came to mind. He wrote them down and submitted them to a local songwriting contest sponsored by Green Shoe Studio in Peoria, Illinois. The studio had been expecting a slew of online submissions, but the one big envelope arriving at the studio courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service caught the attention of the studio’s CEO, Jacob Colgan.
Colgan helped Stobaugh set his lyrics to music and made a professional recording for him. When you watch the video at the end of this post, you’ll hear Stobaugh’s reactions as he first hears his lyrics brought to life. (I dare you not to cry.)
As things sometimes happen these days, the video and Stobaugh’s song went viral. He recently became the oldest artist to have a song on the Billboard Top 100, even beating out 85-year-old Tony Bennett. His song also made the iTunes Top 10, alongside Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus.
This is a beautiful story.
First, instead of sinking into a pit of despair, Stobaugh created something out of his deep love for his wife and grief at her loss. Creativity can be healing.
Second, Green Shoe Studio’s CEO recognized how special Stobaugh’s creative work was and was willing to help him finish his song, at no charge. There are good people in this world, who care for others at no obvious benefit to themselves.
Third, the world has recognized the beauty of Stobaugh’s marriage, the song he wrote, and this sweet story. No matter what they say, many of us still love and respect our elders and their stories.
Everything that is beautiful about being human is in this story – the way we love, the way we grieve, the way we support each other during the darkest times. If this doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what will.
To hear “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” and Fred Stobaugh’s story, watch the video below:
By the way, music therapists are quite skilled at helping people set their lyrics to music, as we know how much healing can happen in this kind of creative act. If you’re in the Kansas City area, I would love to help you express yourself in this way. Contact me for more information.
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Professional caregivers: Find more ideas for music in caregiving at Soundscaping Source, our dedicated site for eldercare professionals.