Fred Stobaugh, the lyricist behind the 2013 viral hit "Oh Sweet Lorraine," passed away Wednesday (Nov. 23) at OSF Richard Owens Hospice Home in Peoria, Illinois. He was 99.
A funeral service for Stobaugh is being held Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Stobaugh became the subject of unlikely internet buzz when his love song appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a week at No. 42 on the chart dated Sept.14, 2013. Stobaugh (billed on the song as a featured artist with lead act Green Shoe Studio, whose Jacob Colgan is the vocalist) was 96 years old at the time, making him the senior-most person to ever appear on the Hot 100. Stobaugh bested an icon, Tony Bennett, who was 85 years and two months old when "Body and Soul," with Amy Winehouse, spent a week on the survey (at No. 87) in 2011.
The story behind "Oh Sweet Lorraine" is quite touching: Stobaugh wrote it for his wife, Lorraine, who had died in April 2013. He submitted his lyrics to a songwriting contest held by Peoria-based Green Shoe Studio, and the studio created a documentary of the song's backstory. Clips from the documentary went viral on YouTube, with some reaching more than 7 million global views.
Colgan, also the CEO of Green Shoe Studio, told Billboard in 2013 that he was immediately drawn to the song's lyrics. "Listening to the passion, it was just so heartwarming," he said.
Stobaugh and his wife were married 72 years. In a 2013 interview with Billboard, he recounted writing the lyrics to "Lorraine." "Well, 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."
In addition to its Hot 100 history, the folk-tinged track hit the Rock Digital Song Sales chart (No. 2), Hot Rock Songs (No. 6) and Digital Song Sales (No. 14). It has sold 193,000 downloads to date, according to Nielsen Music.
In 2014, Stobaugh, then 97, released a second song through Green Shoe Studio, "Took Her Home," another ode to his late wife (also sung by Colgan). "He didn't take her away, He just took her home," Stobaugh's lyrics go. "I see her empty chair, but that don't mean I'm alone.
"No, He's keeping her safe and He's keeping her warm, 'til I show up and call heaven my own."