An Introduction to the World of Commissioned Songwriting for the Bereaved

Most people don’t even know that it is possible to commission a song, but it is. I have custom-created songs for individuals for twelve years now, and while I have composed and recorded songs for more topics than you can imagine (new baby, wedding song, a song to psych someone up to clean their office, a song for a tribe someone visited in Ghana, Africa) I have found, over and over again, that the area I am most drawn to compose for has to do with end-of-life.

Sometimes people come to me because they are struggling with a life-threatening illness and they want to have a song created to help them find strength to fight. Other times, the fight has come to an end, and I am sought out to help create a Legacy Song, or to create a song that will help someone to say good-bye. Other times, I am working on projects for those who have been left behind—either honoring an anniversary of loss, or struggling to find peace with unfinished business once someone they love has died. And there are even times when the song I create is “in the voice of” one who has passed on, as a way of helping someone who is left behind to “hear” what there might be to hear, when we piece their story together and take the profound journey into what a song “from the other side” might say.

If you are curious about what it might be about end-of-life projects that draws me in, I think it comes down to something simple, and beautiful. It is my experience that the air seems to get “thinner,” somehow, around death.

Suddenly, as we face our own death, or the death of someone we love, much of what used to stand between us falls away. Much of what once consumed our attention dissipates. And what we are left with is the essence of what we truly feel. What we are left with sometimes is pure pain, but also pure love. And often, with it comes the bravery, brought about by dwindling final weeks, and hours, and minutes, to say what is truly in our hearts.

And so I find myself, with each new and different song project, at the center of the storm, and in the close, and often teary, confidence of one who is suddenly standing in “thinner air” and seeing life from the standpoint of its deeper essence. It is my great honor and one of my most profound pleasures in life, to bear witness to those who seek me out, and to find the fullest, and bravest, and most authentic way to amplify their most sacred thoughts and communications, through song.

It is from this place that I share with you a song commissioned by a father dying of ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease), for his young daughter. Debilitated as he was, he was only able to type the answer to one Song-Interview question a day (more commonly the Song Interview is conducted in person or on the phone, over a 2-hour period).

For months, I would compose one daily question, and he would respond, until we had a sufficient connection for me to know what to write, on his behalf. This song is his reminder to his daughter of what it felt like to be young and healthy and loved by her, as they sailed together, in simpler days. But, too, the song became his tool for facing his own death and sharing his perspectives on it with her, along with a promise that, somehow or other, he would always be sailing by her side, long past his last breath.

Song = http://www.customcraftedsongs.com/files/brighteyes.mp3

More of the Story = http://www.customcraftedsongs.com/brighteyesstorybehindthesong

Lyrics = http://www.customcraftedsongs.com/content/brighteyeslyrics/

This song was created in CD form for this family, but shortly thereafter, the song began “sailing” on its own, as it was shared and forwarded to families with terminal patients all around the globe. As a result of that flight, a few months after recording it, I was flown to Washington D.C. by the President of the ALS association and was able to perform “Bright Eyes” live to the largest-ever convention of ALS patients and their families.

The father who commissioned this song, his wife, and his young daughter were flown in as well so that I could perform the song, from the stage, directly to them. It remains one of the great highlights of my composing and performing career.

This song can be purchased on iTunes with 100% of the profits going to ALS research.

Anna Huckabee Tull

More Articles Written by Anna Huckabee

An accomplished psychologist with a master’s degree in Applied Psychology and Spiritual Psychology, Anna has a natural gift for cutting straight to the meaningful center of feelings, emotions, and stories. In addition to receiving the prestigious Future Charters Award for Superior Songwriting, Anna’s soulful compositions have enjoyed radio airplay from her hometown of Boston, Mass., to Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, the Caribbean, and beyond. Anna authored the long-running Songwriter’s monthly song-crafting column, “Anna Huckabee Tull On…” Her commissioned works have been performed live by villagers in Africa, by children's choirs in Australia, at weddings, christenings and Services of Remembrance throughout the US and beyond, and in living rooms like yours, where one amazing person who cares, dares to share a song with one other--composed just for them. To Listen to Anna on Open to Hope Radio Reach her at [email protected] or visit her website at http://www.customcraftedsongs.com/theartist/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *