February 1, 2013

Disco Vietnam has taken Manhattan on more than a few occasions.

I tracked down the writer of my favorite song of all time “I’m So Blue” from my favorite film of all time, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. His name is Randy Sharp. Sharp is a country songwriter whose credits include Dolly Parton and the Dixie Chicks, I sent him an e-mail. He kindly responded.

Hi Barry,

Karen Brooks and I wrote “I’m So Blue” at the request of the Nashville office of the Warner Bros. Music Publishing Co. They were approached by the WB Film division about using staff writers to create specific songs for scenes in the movie. Karen and I were on staff at the time and had songs in our catalogs that made us the likely candidates for Big Bird’s sad little scene as the “Bluebird of Happiness.”

We both have affection for ‘40s and ‘50s country music, and have used some of the chordal options you hear in Patsy Cline or Bob Wills in our own songs. Although very country in tone and production, its appeal (I believe), are the surprise diminished and #5(6) chords. Having many songs with that flavor between us is probably what got us the assignment.

As far as what was done to groom the song for children, I’m not sure anything was done consciously. We read the script and we knew the audience was to be children. I like to think that in our songwriter’s toolbox there’s an ample supply of empathy; seeing it from the perspective of those little kids in that hot carnival tent, listening to Big Bird and watching that tear form was not hard to do.

A pre-production suggestion was made that the music would be coming from a music box, very delicate and sparse. That probably pointed us to the idea that we should try to squeeze the complex musical changes that we were hearing into a form that sounded fragile and deceptively simple. It was a long time ago but I remember telling Karen (after we’d finished) I thought we should take another shot at it. The song still seemed too “grown up” to me. Luckily, she talked me out it.

As to Karen’s participation, she and I worked equally hard on that one. The market rarely encourages songwriters to go anywhere but to the top of the radio performance charts. “I’m So Blue” probably turned out as well as it did because we were having fun. Being challenged to create a unique song that would fit perfectly into one scene in a one-of-a-kind little movie was pretty cool. I wish there were more of those.

All the best,

Randy Sharp

MP3: Big Bird – “I’m So Blue”

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