I don’t know how many people remember Joe Brooks, but he died this past weekend. He was a jingle writer and the composer who wrote “You Light Up My Life,” the song that made Debby Boone famous. That was good song, but it got overplayed and overused and became almost banal before we got bored and moved on. But I remember Joe Brooks for an obscure, sappy movie he made and starred in called If Ever I See You Again. The acting was…not good, the premise rather silly and sophomoric, but in 1978, I went to see that movie six times in the few weeks it played in my town. I went all alone to the afternoon matinee. I never discussed it with anyone or invited anyone to come along—those afternoons in the dark theater were my epiphany as a romance writer.
It wasn’t that Brooks was a good actor, he wasn’t—he was a song writer. It certainly wasn’t the storyline or the dialogue or even the beautiful California scenery. But something in Joe Brooks touched the writer in me. I’d set my fiction writing aside and was running an antiques business and writing articles for a local magazine. But the romance writing was there…waiting.
In the movie, when he stood in front of the orchestra, conducting the title song—a love song he’d written for a woman he’d lost, his expression touched me and I knew I’d found the hero of my first novel. www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQTOcdU88fg&feature=related Now as it happens, that hero didn’t get written for another nineteen years and in those years, Joe Brooks’s life took a sad turn. But he floated in my subconscious—a conductor, tall and lanky and gentle and artistic.
Joe Brooks was the inspiration for Liam, the symphony conductor hero in my first novel. Not the troubled 73-year-old Joe Brooks who took his own life, but rather the sensitive young conductor from one five-minute scene in If Ever I See You Again, and I’m sad for losing him. Now that he’s gone, all I really want to remember about Joe Brooks is that, in those brief moments of that silly 1978 film, he inspired my first hero. You never know, do you, how odd little moments in life will affect you or set your creative juices flowing?
Rest in peace, Joe.