Project Blog: September 6, 2009

On Thin Ice

Sometime late in 1980 I was asked to write a song for a TV movie: "Thin Ice," starring Kate Jackson and the song was to be sung by Jane Olivor. Being a prolific 20-something with two musicals heading to Broadway (another story), I didn't think it up my alley, but I had always wanted to do a song for a film, so I gave it a shot.

"Closer" was motivated in part by Jane Olivor's limited but dramatic vocal range and my classical notion of writing a liebestraum of sorts to accompany the predictable montage scene during which it would surely be sung. And it couldn't be a theatre song, so I wrote the lyric myself.

What I ended up with was a pop song with ambitions of lieder and the song was rejected for being "too good" (honest) -- or perhaps just too difficult. I was never sure. But ironically, by then the song had become deeply personal for me and I lovingly dedicated it to my partner at the time. No, Jane Olivor never sang it, nor anyone else. I tucked it away with other bits of young writing and forged ahead into my dark future of musicals and madness.

A few weeks ago, the song found its way to the gifted actor/writer/singer Grant James Varjas. His and Preston Clarke's alternative rock interpretation is one I never imagined; haunting and nuanced, but far from the lush Hollywood arrangement I had expected in 1980. Yet in its soulful vocal, changing rhythms and the simple plinks of a toy piano I am somehow reminded of my own younger voice and gratefully embrace a lost little song that was, after all, too good for a TV movie.