96-Year-Old Songwriter Outsells Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus

1762 22

Why your story is just as important as your music

The major labels may have their million-dollar marketing machines — but with all the money in the world, there’s still one thing they can’t manufacture: an authentic story, something unforgettably unique or heartwarming, something that MUST be heard.

Such was the case with Fred Stobaugh, a 96-year-old man from Illinois who wrote a song called “Oh Sweet Lorraine” after his wife of 73 years passed away. Through the twists of kismet, his lyrics ended up in the hands of Jacob Colgan, a local producer/performer who decided to help Fred turn “Oh Sweet Lorraine” into a professionally-recorded track. They also captured the whole process on video.

The resulting mini-documentary went viral overnight, and now “Oh Sweet Lorraine” has sold more than 100,000 copies on iTunes, surpassing the latest singles of both Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus.

I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that this is a HUGE achievement for an independent artist, especially given that JT and Miley were still in the eye of a veritable hype-storm following their appearances at the VMAs (where Timberlake won a bunch of moonmen and “the twerker” stuck her tongue out a dozen times).

In contrast to that spectacle (which was talked about on every news network, culture blog, and Twitter feed for a week straight), what did Fred Stobaugh have? Sincerity, a touching story, the help of a local musician, and a heartwarming YouTube video.

Oh Sweet Lorraine

Major labels still have a marketing advantage (you can do a lot with money, connections, and momentum), but there’s one area where DIYers have them beat: the viral power of a good story. 

How are you telling yours? Let us know the comments section below.

If you need help uncovering your musical story, check out our podcast interview with Lisa Lepine.

For tips on how to pitch your story to the press, download our FREE guide:

Get Your Music Featured in the 

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • Mathis

    Wow! That story was amazing and the music was beautiful. It literally brought me to tears once the music turned on. Fred is a great man for sharing it with the world and I’m glad they brought it to reality.


  • Birdie

    Wow…awesome! How cool is that?

  • Very. They must've already raked in a few hundred thousand from sales and streaming over the various services, to say nothing of sync deals they're being approached with.


  • Anne Ladenson

    Beautiful story. The producer/engineer/musician Jacob Colgan did a beautiful job with this.

  • Pingback: The Power Of A Good Story | A Hawaiian Songwriterʻs Journey in Mo‘olelo and Mele()

  • David Hardiman Jr.

    This is great.
    I truly understand.
    I am an independent Singer/writer.
    D.Anthony ” I Feel Good Today ”
    I wrote my song to help myself and others to feel happy!
    I dedicated my song to my Grandmother that I lost, and my Mother who is alive.
    Also on youtube
    D.Anthony/I Feel Good Today/Gospel
    Available on cdbaby, itunes, Spotify, Last.fm, etc.
    If you buy my 1st Gospel single
    D.Anthony ” I Feel Good Today “, I promise you will feel better everytime you play it! Buy your copy now!!!!

  • Ms. Lu

    Well, according to Justin Timberlake’s and Miley Cyrus’s people (she is such a ratchet little white girl) they claim to sell millions at once. That fodder about Justin Bieber getting 3 billion views when there is only 7 billion people living is quite a push too. Good for this man and good for these record people for doing his work justice. Mainstream artists are sometimes so trifling with their lies about being so huge and high above everyone else. Something’s gotta change.

  • Bids Prices

    Absolutely tear jerking

  • m3k

    meanwhile we’re being told we must stick to a daily regimen of twiiter, fb, pintrst posting to have any hope of being noticed – just be yourself

  • Vickie

    Crying while listening to this. We lost Mom a month ago and Mom and Dad were married 63 years. So special

  • Yeah, some things go viral for some reason but it’s just random, it’s not really about quality or the best story. You might as well play lottery instead of music if you want to count on viral videos.

  • Al Bowman

    Thank you for showing us all that age is a but a number and that music can still sell that is real and heartfelt.

  • Bob Caruana

    WOW, what a beautiful story,GOD bless him.

  • Lauren Ornstein

    Absolutely beautiful story. Kudos to you for taking the song and their life and putting it to music.

  • Aaron J Curtis

    Very touching story, that country pop vibe just suited the song so well. Poor guy you can see he's devastated.

  • Richard Lee Jackson

    Incredible. Thank you for sharing that! It touched my heart deeply.

  • Supreem Da Rezarekta’

    Tight and very touching. God bless you guys and Fred.

  • Kimmie Smith

    Touched my heart and brought a tear to my eyes. Never take your loved one for granted and learn to overlook the small things that are so insignificant and treat every day you have with them as though it might be your last, because we never really know when our time will be up here on earth!

  • elizabeth ziff

    gee whiz.

  • Candee Kain

    touching and awesome story and song.. thanks to Fred and the writers/performers!!!!!!

  • Jack Dowling

    What a massive present out of the blue for a guy, three cheers for Green Shoe. Who stays married for 75 years anymore? A different age. Another story:

    The cd just released from band Grimy Diner (“Songs From Winterfearon”) was done by the main songwriter/musician entirely during an 11-month stretch of soul-wrenching interfearon/ribavarin “combo treatment” for hepatitis C. The music (electronic/synth & light guitar) was designed as a tribute and hopefully therapy to the thousands of other suffering from this epidemic disease, and its almost-as-bad treatment. If anyone knows of someone suffering from this disease (or any other long-term disease), point them to this cd, it is for them (and anyone else suffering from the general disease of modern-life stress). Thanks.

  • Paul Luftenegger

    What an incredible man & brilliant studio with such vision. I am an International Singer/Songwriter – I create music to Inspire Global Kindness. Thank you to all involved. AWESOME STORY! http://www.paulluftenegger.com