Piano In The Dark

Album: Get Here (1988)
Charted: 23 6
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Songfacts®:

  • Scott Cuter and Jeffrey Hall composed the music for this song, then sent it Brenda Russell, who added lyrics. The title came first, and the story followed. Says Russell, "I'm a person that collects song titles. You know, if I hear a good title, like talking to a friend or whatever, I'll write it down. I keep a little song title book. I always think that in every title there's a song somewhere, and you've just got to thin it out. So when they sent me this music, I thought, 'Whoa, it's so haunting and beautiful, I love that.' And I was flipping through my title book and I just thought, 'Piano in the Dark, I wonder if that would go with that music I heard?' That's as easy as that happened. I had that title and I thought, 'Hmmm, maybe that'll work.'"
  • Russell was not initially sure what Piano in the Dark meant, but when she started writing lyrics, the story began to evolve. Says Russell, "I love it when it happens like that. You're not putting any rigid restrictions on how it's coming, you know, it's just boom - let's try that. Go for it, you know?" According to Russell, the song tells the story of a woman whose lover plays piano. "She wants to leave him, because she's really kind of bored. But every time she does that, he sits down and starts playing. And it sucks her right back in. She's so in love with the way he plays. And he plays in the dark, theoretically. It's not that literal, necessarily. But that's what keeps her to him, basically, is his music. And I just found that was an interesting story to write about."
  • This song creates a vivid image in many listeners' minds, which is something that Russell feels is important to the musical experience. Says Russell, "I was so disappointed as a songwriter when videos came out. Because I thought the video robbed the listener of creating their own personal images to the music (the video for this song is set in a nightclub on a rainy night just before closing time). Everyone had their own little image in their mind of what that song meant to them, or what they saw when they heard that song. And now we were creating an image for them to relate to the song. And the images most of the time weren't nearly as cool as what people could create in their minds, because the early videos were kind of boring, you know, they've come a long way since then."
  • This is the only song performed by Russell that really made an impact on the American charts, although she has had more success on the international market. Her song "Get Here" was a huge hit for Oleta Adams in 1991. She also co-wrote the music and lyrics for the 2005 musical The Color Purple, which was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and presented by Oprah Winfrey. The Tony-award winning score blends jazz, blues and gospel of the early and mid 1900s with pop sensibilities. Russell's father, Gus Gordon, was a member of The Ink Spots. (Check out our interview with Brenda Russell.)

Comments: 15

  • Ssjc0123 from TorontoLOVE this song!
    LOVED it when it came out MOONS ago and still love it
    Listening to it on Neil Sedaka’s 50s show on Sirius XM
    Such a classic, timeless, beautiful
  • Tom from OhioI always imagined this to be a song about a partner's lovemaking abilities, where "Piano In The Dark" was not a literal playing of an instrument but someone who is so skilled that he is in a sense creating music with his body. It is such an amazing song, and I always loved it despite it being somewhat outside the genre of my usual musical tastes.
  • Left Body Kick from Middle Class, Usa Great song and lyrics. All-time classic and I remember listening to this one with my prior girlfriend, a special lady, on our very first trip to Dana Point. December 2012. She shared a Spanish love song with me and I shared this one. I remember when we were listening to this one I remember feeling emotions come over that I hadn’t felt before with her. It was different, she was different. I wish those days of feeling free, discovery, never ended. But they did. I’ll never feel that open again because I’m too guarded, too many walls. She wrote some thing on my mirror that I will never forget : “ my heart will be complete when I see you again. When will I see you again?” That statement/ vision is burned into me. But we wanted different things, and I have to be a man and step back. But like the final lyrics say: “I can’t let go...” how true. I guess life imitates art. Beautiful lady. Special
  • Heavy D from Ventura I remember listening to the song with my old girlfriend on our very first trip down to Dana Point. It was magical. I wish those days never ended. But they did.

    I remember she shared a Spanish love song with me and I shared this one with her.

    The relationship is over now after several break ups / start and stop etc. I hope she finds her happiness. I’ll never be free and happy like that again. Too guarded.

    How I wish those days of discovery, feeling free, love, will go on forever. But they won’t. Like the very last lyrics in the song:
    “ I can’t let go “

    Life imitates art - how true.
  • Geleen Orata from PhilippinesI love this song since i was in my high school days. I love the mellow... the lyrics aaahhh i can feel your emotion
  • Mo from Mesa ArizonaThis song, the singer (Brenda) is right on, always enjoyed the tune. it should have been an award winner, anyone know about that?
  • Steve from Chester, UkLove this song one of my all timers,very haunting.
  • Elvira from San Francisco CaliforniaReminds me of my first - he looked a lot like Mel Gibson. Sometimes I feel pangs in my chest I don't regret caring, I just remember and think of what could have been.
  • Terry from FloridaI like the song meaning too.
  • Jeff from Kingston, TnI first seen this on HBO special "Robert Townsend and his partners in crime" What a great song. I remember we recorded it on the vcr. when we would watch it, mom sang the lead and i sang the background vocals. To this day I still only sing the background vocals afraid of messing up that memory.
  • Bryan from Worcester, MaDon't forget Joe Esposito with the background vocals
  • Mike from Boca Raton, FlCheck out the song "You moved me to this" by Ivan Lins from the album Love Dance. Brenda Russell absolutely makes the song. Her voice is perfect!
  • Naseem from Karachi, PakistanBrenda song Piano in the dark, whenever listen it, it take me back in 80s when I was studying in USA. What a good song. I simply define a excellent wording ,beautiful voice blended with soft and sweet music.
    During my stay in USA there was no internet like the one we have todays. Lyrics wording was not easily accessible, but I had special feeling regardless what is saying. This is my Top-50 best songs of my Campus Life in USA.
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaWow! I never knew Brenda was black until I just now looked at the video here. Isn't it funny how you have a picture of the artist in your head and it turns out to be completely different! Love the line. "like a thief of the heart."
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaAs Brenda herself says, "it's so haunting and beautiful." Indeed!
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