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With the opening line, "She's just 16 years old, leave her alone, they said," we understand if you think this song sounds a little statutory. Benny Mardones tells us
that the 16-year-old girl he's singing about was named Heidi, and she lived in his apartment in Spanish Harlem. Their relationship was purely platonic, however, as Benny looked after Heidi and her family after her father left. Benny would pay her $50 a week to walk his basset hound, Zanky.
Mardones wrote this song with Robert Tepper, who would later write the song "No Easy Way Out" for the movie Rocky IV. Benny told us: "One night Robert Tepper and I were up writing songs. It was about a week before we were leaving for Miami to cut the first big album, which was Never Run, Never Hide. We thought that we already had the hit song, so did Polydor Records. It was a song called 'Might Have Been Love.' But at the last minute we're sitting there one night at my apartment trying to write. Bobby kept playing the chord changes and we tried 18 melodies and 30 kinds of lyrics and all of a sudden the key in the door turned and I said, 'Oh my God, it's daylight.' Because we liked to keep the blinds down.
And in she walks, 16 years old, dressed for school in a miniskirt, little stacked heels, adorable, 16-going-on-21. She said, 'You've been up all night?' and of course it was obvious. I said, 'Yeah, we have.' She says, 'Okay, come on, Zanky,' and she walks the dog out. When she leaves and goes out the door, my partner goes, 'Oh, my God.' I said, 'Hey, Bob. She's just 16 years old, leave her alone.' And literally five minutes later I said, 'Play that lick again, Bobby.' So he played the lick and I went (singing), 'she's just 16 years old, leave her alone, they say.' Then I thought about her dad and what he had done, and that's where I got (singing), 'Separated by fools who don't know what love is yet.' The chorus was, 'you're too young for me, but if I could fly, I'd pick you up and take you into the night and show you love like you've never seen.' Then the verse 'It's like having it all and letting it show. It's like having a dream where nobody has a heart. It's like having it all and watching it fall apart.' Because his success was not the family's success; it was just his. 'I can't measure my love there's nothing compared to it' - it was all about the abandonment of this family and this 16-year-old girl."
While the song has stuck like glue to radio playlists, when it first came out, radio stations had some concerns. Benny explains: "When it first was released, R&B stations all over America thought I was black. Then they found out I was white and they dropped the record. White radio was afraid to touch it because they thought it was about me dating a 16-year-old girl at my age. So Polydor Records sent out like 3,000 letters to radio stations across the country explaining what the song was really about. And the song got added and almost instantly started playing all over America."
When this song became a hit, Benny Mardones suddenly found himself with a great deal of money and fame, which he didn't handle very well. He developed a cocaine addiction and got in the habit of drinking a bottle of whiskey every night. He recorded the album Too Much To Lose the next year, but when it came time to tour and promote it, he was in Miami, wasted out of his mind. His momentum was stopped cold and his record company, Polydor, lost interest. He continued his descent until 1985, when his son Michael was born and he stopped using drugs. His best friend pulled him together and flew him to Syracuse, where Benny started a new life away from the temptations of Miami. The only white stuff he saw was snow - and plenty of it. Benny became a local celebrity, met various women who helped raise his son (Michael's mom was in worse shape than Benny), and was a big concert draw in the area for the next 10 years.
In 1989, "Into The Night" was re-released after a "Where Are They Now?" feature on the Arizona radio station KZZP, which led to renewed interest in the song. The influential program director Scott Shannon added it to his playlist in Los Angeles, and radio stations across the country followed suit. A new version of the song was released, and this time it hit #20 in the US. The song was the only one to chart twice in the '80s by the same artist.
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