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You Light Up My Life

by

Debby Boone



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was featured in a movie of the same name written and directed by Joseph Brooks, who was also a songwriter. Brooks needed a title song for the movie, so he wrote this about halfway through the shoot.
At first, this was going to be sung by a jingle singer named Kasey Cisyk, and she recorded the original version that was used in the film. For over a year, no movie studio would release the film and no record company would release the song. When the movie finally got picked up, it was time to record the song as a single, and Brooks went with Debbie Boone instead of Cisyk. Boone had very little recording experience, but was the daughter of Pat Boone, a very popular singer in the '50s with a loyal and very religious fan base.
The movie was about a girl trying to make it in show business. The lead role was played by Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the movie Grease the next year. She lip-synched the song to Cisyk's voice.
This won the 1977 Grammy for Song Of The Year. Boone also won that year for Best New Artist.
This was by far the biggest hit of 1977. It was #1 for 10 weeks in the US.
When the song became a huge hit it helped the movie do very well. At the 1978 Oscars, this won for Best Song, which created a lot of controversy because it was seen as a sellout to pop culture. Among the songs it beat was one written by renowned composer Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote the elegant type of songs the academy usually looked for. Many songs from Saturday Night Fever, including "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive," were eligible that year, but none were nominated, which made it seem very unlikely that a song that appealed to the masses would win an Oscar.
Boone sang in a Gospel quartet, and like her father was very religious. When asked who she was singing about, her answer was "God." Joseph Brooks, who wrote the song, took exception because that was not what he wrote it about. He never asked Boone to record another song, but they did get together once more when they performed this on a 1990 NBC special called Night Of 100 Stars III, with Brooks playing piano while Boone sang.
Boone performed this at the Oscars with a group of children using sign language to translate the lyrics. Everyone thought the kids were deaf, but they weren't.
This was Boone's only hit, and it didn't take her long to fade from the spotlight. She was nominated for an Oscar the next year for the song "When You're Loved," from the movie The Magic Of Lassie.
This has been covered by many artists, including Kenny Rogers, Leann Rimes, and Whitney Houston. Rimes' version is the only one to chart, it hit #34 in the US in 1997.
In June 2009 Joseph Brooks re-entered the public eye when he was accused of rape and sexual abuse by four different women. The incidents occurred between March and May 2008 when he allegedly lured the women to his apartment to audition for movie roles, drugged and molested them. Despite the fact that more women subsequently came forward, he pled not guilty.

On May 22, 2011, before his trial had been set, Brooks was found dead by a friend of an apparent suicide. His died just months after his son was accused of murdering a swimsuit designer and he left a three-page suicide note detailing his various health issues.
Debby Boone
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Comments (22):

The year the song came out in 1977 was the year the king Elvis Presley died.
- Adrian, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
The real story, from Casey's sister: Brooks was a lech even back then, and had fallen for Casey through their work in commercial jingles. He had wanted her to star in the film as well as sing, which she declined, as she did his amorous advances. In a "rit of fealous jage" he made sure she was not listed in the film's credits (except for her acting in two scenes), and gave the song to Boone, whose voice is somewhat similar. She later sued and won quite a sum for her omission from the credits. People magazine did a large feature on "The Real Voice Behind 'You Light Up My Life." Ironically, the preservation of her anonymity served her well, since Casey was the most successful commercial singer of her era, and her "nameless" voice allowed her to sing for Ford and Cadillac, Coke and Pepsi, etc. where a known singer would have been more constrained. I only regret that her most famous performance was of a song that is only fit to be poured on pancakes on a Sunday morning.
- jack, oakland, CA
An incredibly beautiful song with vocals to match. It simply captured a moment in time, sung with pure, heartfelt emotion that apparently many people here in the USA embraced judging by its popularity at the time. Personally, back in the 70s, this song touched my heart at a time in my life where I was so far out there, so confused and desperate. Somehow it spoke to my soul and gave me hope. It was like a light shining out to me in darkness.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
To share a vulgar comment about such a beautiful and spiritually filled song sung by Debbie Boone is not something that should be taken lightly in the fear of GOD. I don't care what the intentions were with the songwriter and neither does any other intelligent and moral person. What matters is what the person that performed this particular song believed.
- Michael Scott, Punta Gorda, FL
Kasey Cisyk got screwed out of this song. I remember when D.J's put both voices of Kasey and Debbie side by side and said Kasey was the better of the two. I heard Pat helped push the distribution and moved Kasey out of the picture.
- Johnnie, Chicago, IL
Paul,
Your assumption is that at the time the song was out, both the U.S. and Brittish music audiences had the same tastes. However, at the end of 1977, the pop charts in both countries were on very different tracks. In the U.S., the singles were dominated by middle-of-the-road adult contemporary ballads (like this one) with up-and-coming-disco and the various hard and country rock formats placing at #2 and #3 respectively. This wasn't true in England where first The Sex Pistols and punk were taking off in a big way, followed by the so-called new wave of Elvis Costello and the like. While American disco was popular over in England, adult contemporary songs--especially those sung by American acts--were definitely on the wane at the time Debby Boone's song came out. If the song had been released earlier, say in 1971 or 1972, when the UK charts were dominated by adult contemporary songs of both American and Brittish vintage, things may have been different; but, as it was, when "You Light up My Life" was released in Britain, Caucasian American adult contemporary music was sounding its death knell over there.
- ted, phoenix, AZ
How is it possible to have a #1 song in the US for 10 consecutive weeks and have the same song chart in the UK at #48? Is this bad promo by the record company.
- PAUL, Detroit, MI
"This song is about drugs." and "...but according to many posters on here, EVERY pop song of the past half-century is about drugs". WRONG!! This song and many others like it are clearly about anal sex. "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right." Need I say anymore? Oh....and I think it might be about God as well.
- Mike, Matawan, NJ
Stayed at No. 1 for 10 weeks, The Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love" took over the No. 1 spot on December 24th, 1977 {A nice Christmas present for them}!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Wed., Jun. 24, 2009: "Joseph Brooks, the 71-year-old director, producer and songwriter who scored an Academy Award and No. 1 hit for penning the 1977 ballad "You Light Up My Life," was indicted Tuesday on charges of raping and sexually assaulting 11 women in his Upper East Side apartment."
- Steven, Sunnyvale, CA
At the time "You Light up My Life," was out, I recall hearing an interview with some professor or other who said that beautiful romantic songs were coming back into style. Actually, the song represented the last gasp of a particular musical form on the pop charts; namely, the waltz. If you listen to the song's rhythm, you can hear a 3-4 time on it. Waltzes had been popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the popularity of first the big bands and later rock and roll signaled their end. There are only a handful of other top-40 entries after 1955 that contain a waltz beat, and they include "Rock and Roll Waltz," by Kay Starr (1956); "El Paso," by Marty Robbins (1960); "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" by Elvis Presley (1960); "Go Now," by The Moody Blues (1965); "What's New Pussycat?" by Tom Jones (1965); "What the World Needs Now Is Love," by Jackie Deshannon (1965); "The Last Waltz," by Engelbert Humperdinck (1967); "Mr. Bo Jangles," by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1971); and "Lucille," by Kenny Rogers (1977). While I can think of a few additional album tracks that had waltz beats, I find myself hard-pressed to name any other top-40 hits with the waltz beat.
- ted, phoenix, AZ
Oh gosh, I remember when Debby Boone beat Andy Gibb out for the song of the year! My sister was so mad! It was the most beautiful song a 13 year old girl had ever heard of!
- Polly, Anna, IL
I don't care if this song is about "The Big Guy", it's still one of the most beautiful tunes ever recorded!
- Michael, San Diego, CA
Actually, she had another hit in 1978, not too long after You Light Up My Life, called California. Granted, it wasn't anywhere near as popular, but I remember hearing it on the radio all the time. It peaked at #50 on the Hot 100 chart, and #20 on the US Adult Contemporary chart.
- Cindy, Tempe, AZ
A man I know has been a DJ for about thirty years. He says that this is the one and only song that nobody ever requests. This song is like Nazism in Germany: It swept the country for a time, but afterward no one would ever admit to having anything to do with it.
- MusicMama, New York, NY
A clarification/correction to the Songfact that this was the #1 song of 1977: Officially, according to Billboard magazine, this is not the case. At the time, their survey years began/ended on December 1 of the previous calendar year, and this song happened to be only about halfway into its run at #1 when the 1977 survey year ended. In fact, this song was officially a bigger hit for 1978 than for 1977 - but wasn't the overall #1 song for either year (#51 for 1977, #3 for 1978). However, it was Billboard's #1 overall hit of the entire decade of the 1970s. (See the page http://www.charismusicgroup.com/calendar.htm, which is an excellent, albeit still incomplete, source for 1970s and 1980s U.S. chart data; it contains cue sheets for American Top 40 episodes being restored for XM Satellite Radio.)
- Joshua, Twin Cities, MN
This did win the 1977 Song Of The Year Grammy but it was a tie, along with Barbra Streisand's & Paul Williams' "Evergreen" but they both lost to the Eagles' "Hotel California" for Record Of The Year
- Bruce, Canton, OH
This song is about drugs. "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right." Isn't it obvious? And the "light up" metaphor...I mean, come on. Yes, I didn't realize it until I came to this site, but according to many posters on here, EVERY pop song of the past half-century is about drugs. Thanks for the heads-up; I had been under the mistaken impression that songwriters occasionally write about love, life, a sunny day, dark nights, family, meeting someone, striving to make the world a better place, bad feelings, hurt, rejection, dancing, feeling too sexy, or other topics. Now I see the light.
- Garrett, Nashville, TN
This was also used in a skit on the old Carol Burnett show. She's dressed as a farm wife and is singing it with a deadpan delivery while giving Tim Conway a bath in a No. 3 washtub. A classic.
- Ray, Spring, TX
this was used in the episode of the Simpsons, "I Married Marge", where young Marge and Homer sing it in Homer's car, lending to these great lines of dialog:
Marge: [listening to `You Light Up My Life' on the radio] Our song.
Homer: I bet the guy she was singing that about was real happy.
Marge: Well, actually, she was singing about God.
Homer: Oh, well, He's always happy. No, wait, He's always mad...
- Stephanie, Ellicott City, MD
I remember being very surprised during Brook's Oscar acceptance speech when he said, in a classic "how do you like me now" speaking style, that he had pitched his winning song to every major label and they all turned it down. It actually inspired me. When all the pros were telling him no, he somehow persevered and never gave up on his dream.
- Larry, Boston, MA
"You Light Up My Life" was NOT Debby Boone's only hit. While she did not hit it big again on the pop charts, Debby had success on the country charts, including her #1 hit "Are You on the Road to Lovin' Me Again". She also has released several contemporary Christian albums to critical and popular acclaim. Her first Christian album ("With My Song I Will Praise Him") was awarded a Grammy for Best Inspirational Album in 1980. She won another Grammy in 1983 for her duet with Phil Driscol on "Keep the Flame Burning".
- Glen, Wilmington, DE
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