Published 2:54 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

Arts Council to present songwriting legend

2018 Songwriter Hall of Fame Inductee Steve Dorff said that coming to small towns like Andalusia is important so people can know the stories behind the greatest hits written.

“I have actually never been to Andalusia before,” Dorff said. “The whole personal appearance thing is quite new to me because I have been a studio rat my entire life. So, after being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a couple of those people told me that it would be a good idea to get out and show the people the face behind my songs.”

It’s not a familiar face, he said.

“Most people assume that when they hear Kenny Rogers sing ‘Through the Years,’ or ‘The Gambler,’ that he wrote it,” Dorff said. “And he didn’t. So I always start my show off by playing a song that everyone knows and say, ‘I know you’re wondering why I’m playing this George Straight song,’ when it is really not a George Straight song, it is a Steve Dorff song made famous by George Straight. Andalusia, as well as other towns all across the nation, has country music lovers, and it is a good story to be told. The stories behind these great hits and where they come from.”

He has traveled all over the world showcasing his talent, but Dorff said that no one place is his favorite.

“I have played in so many different cities, from L.A., to New York, to Atlanta and to Miami,” Dorff said. “But I don’t think there is a favorite place. I think once you’re in that theatre, and you have 250 people in an intimate setting around the piano, it doesn’t matter what city you’re in, it’s really more about the listeners and relating the stories.”

Dorff said that he has always had a gift for music and has always related to it.

“Ever since I could crawl, I always heard music,” Dorff said. “I always related to it in everything that I did, whether it was asking a girl out, to hitting a home run in a little league game, it was always being musicalized in my brain. It is like second nature or breathing to me.”

Dorff said that he has always drawn inspiration from classical music and three big names.

“When I think of the three biggest people that have influenced me, I think of Burt Bacharach, Dave Grusin and The Beatles,” Dorff said. “Growing up, that is who I listened to and loved, but I also really love classical music. I was just consumed by music growing up.”

Not only is Dorff a songwriter, but he is a composer as well. He said that the best part of the entire musical process is being able to listen to a great artist sing his work.

“Doing the actual work of writing the songs is the hard part,” Dorff said. “The most fun part of it is listening to great artists perform and record the songs and hearing the finished product. There is nothing better than Barbara Streisand singing  one of your songs.”

For Dorff, being inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame is like making it to the peak of Mount Everest.

“I have been thinking about this a lot,” Dorff said. “And how I feel represents a mountain climber who has finally reached the peak of Mount Everest. This award isn’t just for an individual song or lyric like maybe an Oscar or Emmy, but it is an award that spans an entire career. For a songwriter, who is not necessarily a household name, this award is really the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

Dorff hopes members of the audience walk away feeling entertained.

“I want them to be entertained,” Dorff said. “I want them to have those, ‘Oh wow,’ moments. I joke around and I’ll play a song that I wrote for Whitney Houston and I’ll say, ‘Close your eyes and you will absolutely think that you are hearing Whitney Houston’s voice,’ so it’s going to be pretty funny and fun. I think people really enjoy the stories of the process behind writing a song and hearing about the stories of how their favorite country star or singer acts off stage.”

Dorff, who has been nominated for three Grammy wards and six Emmy awards, has written more than 20 Top 10 pop and country hits, including Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years,” Mel Tillis’s “Coca Cola Cowboy,” Clay Walker’s “Hypnotize the Moon,” Ronnie Milsap’s “Cowboys and Clowns,” Anne Murray’s “I Just Fall in Love Again” (Billboard’s top country hit of 1979), George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart,” Lee Greenwood’s “Don’t Underestimate My Love for You,” and Eddie Rabbitt’s “Every Which Way But Loose”–the titletrack from Clint Eastwood’s 1978 film. Dorff has also penned songs covered by artists like Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Melissa Manchester, Karen Carpenter, Roy Rogers, Celine Dion, Blake Shelton, Smokey Robinson, Ray Charles, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Judy Collins, Cher, Dusty Springfield, Ringo Starr, Garth Brooks and Vanessa Williams.

Dorff has additionally established himself as a gifted film and television composer, with nine No. 1 film songs among credits including TV music for the Elvis mini-series, Spenser: For Hire, Murphy Brown, Major Dad, The Singing Bee, Just the 10 of Us, Growing Pains, Murder She Wrote, Columbo and Reba; his other film contributions include songs and scores for Bronco Billy, Rocky IV, Pure Country, Tin Cup and Honky Tonk Man.

An Evening With Steve Dorff: The Hit Songs and the Stories Behind Them is scheduled for Sat., March 23, from 7 p.m., until 9 p.m., at the LBW Community College Dixon Center for the Performing Arts.

Individual performance tickets are available at Harold’s and at The Star-News, and are $15 in advance. Individual tickets are  $18 at the door and $12 for children.