Randy Goodrum has long been known as an excellent hit songwriter who’s had success in several genres, including pop, rock, country, jazz and R&B. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2000, and he’s written classic hit songs for Steve Perry (of Journey), Anne Murray, Toto, DeBarge, Chicago, Kenny Rogers, Dottie West and Michael Johnson.
In particular, there was a 10-year period from 1977 to 1987, where Goodrum had a constant flow of hits on the charts. In 1978, he wrote two big ballad hits, the number one pop hit “You Needed Me” for Anne Murray (which was nominated for Grammy Song of the Year) and “Bluer Than Blue” for Michael Johnson. Goodrum later wrote two more hits for Murray: “Broken Hearted Me” and “Now and Forever (You and Me).”
For rock & pop fans, Goodrum made his mark co-writing two of Steve Perry’s solo hits: “Oh Sherrie” and “Foolish Heart.” In fact, Goodrum wrote eight songs with Perry for his double platinum album, Street Talk. In addition, Goodrum co-wrote the pop hits “Who’s Holding Donna Now” (DeBarge), “I’ll Be Over You” (Toto), “If She Would Have Been Faithful” (Chicago) and “It’s Sad To Belong” (England Dan & John Ford Coley).
Goodrum also displayed his versatility by writing such ‘80s country hits as “What Are We Doin’ In Love” (a duet hit for Dottie West & Kenny Rogers), “A Lesson In Leavin’” (Dottie West) and “Fallin’ In Love” (Sylvia).
On top of his songwriting success, Goodrum has been a solo recording artist who’s released several albums. Interestingly, although Goodrum can write songs in any style, his solo music has consistently been in the jazz & pop genres. In the mid-‘80s, he signed with respected jazz/pop label GRP Records, and released his first two albums: Solitary Nights and Silhouette.
Goodrum, who is now 72 and lives in his home state of Arkansas, remains very active as an artist & songwriter. He has just released his latest album, called Red Eye (on his own label, Clark St. Records). This album contains 12 new songs by Goodrum, who sings, plays piano and produced the album (with Larry Williams).
Here’s an audio sampler of hit songs written by Randy Goodrum.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Randy Goodrum. He tells how he wrote his classic hit songs, and discusses his new album.
DK: I read that you’re from Arkansas. How did you get started as a songwriter and musician?
Randy Goodrum: I had a propensity for music…I could play by ear. My brother would play piano, and my dad could play great guitar. Being in Arkansas, we could pick up all these clear channel stations from around the country. You could hear stations from Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City and Nashville, so I was surrounded with music all the time. Plus, in Hot Springs where I grew up, it was a terrific music town but probably for nefarious reasons. There was illegal gambling there, and so there were nightclubs and it was like a mini-Las Vegas. There were amazing musicians who came there for the lifestyle and it’s a national park area, too. So I was surrounded by these great players, and I was major jazz fan; that was my entry into music.
Early on, I was probably the only kid who insisted that my parents find me a piano teacher (laughs). It’s usually the other way around. But I wanted to learn to play properly, to be like (great jazz pianists) Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson. I wanted to be a professional musician, and I appreciated great songs.
At college, I was majoring in piano, and a friend was writing a school musical. He asked me to help him with it, and we went into a practice room and we got two upright pianos facing each other. Then I said, “Hey, I got this idea for the first production number.” I started coming up with some things. The next thing I know, my friend became too busy, so I ended up writing the whole thing. It was the first time I experienced songwriting. I did two musicals in college…that’s what got me on the road to songwriting because I fell in love with writing songs. And because I wasn’t around other songwriters at the time, I learned how to write songs completely on my own, both the music and the lyrics.
DK: How did you get into the music business?
Here’s the lyric video of Randy Goodrum’s new single,
Goodrum: I had an old fishing buddy from Hot Springs named Bob Millsap, who had moved to Nashville and done quite well there. He knew I was a musician and wrote songs. Bob said, “I don’t really know what you’re doing, but I like it. I’ll publish some of these songs, and I’ll make demos and pitch it around and see what happens.” So that’s how I entered the music business. When I moved to Nashville in 1973, I also worked as a musician and ended up getting in Roy Orbison’s band, and I worked with Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins, too.
At the time, I wrote songs on the side…I just wrote whatever I felt like writing. The early songs I wrote like “You Needed Me,” and “Bluer Than Blue” and “Sad To Belong,” those songs weren’t written for any particular artist. Most of the songs I wrote were overtly pop…it was a kind of hybrid pop that was being done in Nashville by people like England Dan, Gene Cotton, Dr. Hook and Dave Loggins.
DK: One of your early hits was “Bluer Than Blue” for Michael Johnson. How did you place that song?
Goodrum: I was friends with musician & producer Brent Maher (who later discovered The Judds), and I would play him songs to get his opinion. At the end of a session, I asked him if I could play him “Bluer Than Blue.” Then I went to the piano and played him the song, and he loved it. He recorded me singing the song and playing piano. Then he and (producer/guitarist) Steve Gibson began working with this new folk singer called Michael Johnson, who wanted to do a pop record. Brent said, “Do you mind if we do ‘Bluer Than Blue’ with Michael?” And I said, “Yeah. that would be great” (the song became a pop and AC hit).
DK: For your hit “You Needed Me,” how did you connect with Anne Murray?
Goodrum: With “You Needed Me,” I pitched it to everybody, but they all said, “That’s a really nice song but it doesn’t have a chorus.” And I’d say, “Well, it doesn’t need a chorus.” And they’d say, “Oh yes, every song must have a chorus.” But my publisher Bob Millsap sent it through the mail to Anne Murray’s home address, and that’s how she got it.
DK: In 1984, you had a big collaboration with Steve Perry for his first solo album, and you co-wrote the hits “Oh Sherrie” and “Foolish Heart.” How did you connect with Steve?
Here’s the video of Toto’s hit “I’ll Be Over You,” which
was co-written by Randy Goodrum.
Goodrum: The story behind these songs began with a red eye flight that I took from New York to L.A. to work with Steve. And that story is the kernel of the premise I used to write a new song called “Red Eye,” which is the title of my new album and my single.
My wife Gail and I had moved to the New York area with our two daughters. One day, I was at my kitchen table with one of my daughters, who was sitting next to me. Then I got a phone call and my daughter said, “Who’s that?” I said, “I think it’s the lead guitarist with Aerosmith.” And she said, “Joe Perry?” And I said, “No, Steve Perry.” Then she ran into her room and tore off a Journey poster from her wall and she showed it to me. She said, “That’s Steve Perry,” and I said…”Ohhh.” So I talked with Steve, who said he looking for writers to work with him for his solo album. A musician friend of mine, Andy Newmark, had suggested me to Steve. So Steve said, “I’d like to write a couple songs with you for my solo record. When are you coming out to L.A.?” Then I said, “Tomorrow.” He said, “How about starting at 11:00 am?” And I said, “I’ll see you at 11.” And of course I didn’t have a ticket yet, so I got on the phone and I booked a red eye flight, and I showed up at 11.
I wanted to bring him an idea to start a song, so that day before I flew to L.A., I went to the piano and I came up with this little vamp that I thought was a good thing to start with. Then I showed up at his house and it was great meeting him. We went inside and I met his girlfriend Sherrie, and we went into this small writing room he had. I sat down at the piano and I started playing the vamp to what ended up being the intro for “Foolish Heart.” He started singing along to it, and I immediately started writing down a draft of the lyric. We worked on it all day, and by 11 pm we had the demo for “Foolish Heart,” and it was killer. So it was a great day, and over the next four days Steve and I wrote four songs.
DK: When did you write “Oh Sherrie” with Steve?
Goodrum: “Oh Sherrie” came at the end. What happened was, Steve had written this new song, but he said he didn’t like the lyrics and he asked me for help. He gave me the track without the lyrics, so I wrote and participated in the lyrics. It was the last song that was written for the album.
Here’s a video of Anne Murray performing her #1 hit “You
Needed Me,” which was written by Randy Goodrum.
DK: You also had pop hits with the group DeBarge’s “Who’s Holding Donna Now” and Toto’s “I’ll Be Over You.” Can you talk about these hits?
Goodrum: I’m very proud of those particular songs. (Hit writer/producer) Jay Graydon is one of my best friends; he had been doing Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau and George Benson, and he was putting together some tracks for El DeBarge (lead singer of DeBarge). Jay had been hammering me for years, saying “You’ve got to move to L.A.” So when I finally did, Jay said, “I’m going to throw you a bone, a welcome to L.A. present. I’ve got this track that I wrote with David Foster and we need a lyric.”
So I got the track and I listened to it, and it was just a gentle, horizontal track. It was beautiful, but I thought…Wow, what do I do with this? If I write a lyric that’s just okay, this thing is gonna die of boredom. I really have to write the lyric of my life on this track because every line of going to be exposed; it needs to have a lot of meat on the bone. So I chiseled that lyric…I wanted to make sure that this lyric was Smithsonian when I was done.
I first came up with a lyric that was pretty good, but I wanted to work on it more. I sat in our hot tub, and I had my tablet and I rewrote it. Then I gave that to Jay, and that’s when he liked it.
DK: How did you write the hit “I’ll Be Over You” for Toto?
Goodrum: Early on when I’d been in L.A., I met (producer/engineer) Bill Schnee who introduced me to Steve Lukather (of Toto). Toto was not the biggest thing yet, so he and I had a bit of a relationship. We were just writing songs for the open market…we weren’t writing for Toto; they didn’t use outside writers. So Steve and I were writing, and he got a call from (producer/mixer) Humberto Gatica who was in the studio with Julio Iglesias. He said, “Write something beautiful for Julio.” So Steve and I started this little Latin-ish vamp, and if you listen to it, you’ll notice there’s a subtle feel of that in the song. The way “I’ll Be Over You” starts off, what I do is try to create an atmosphere, to condition the listener for the rest of the song.
I’m a studio engineer as well, and I had these hybrid Yamaha NS-10 speakers that (producer) Val Garay had designed. I bought a pair and David Paich (of Toto) had a pair. So I told Steve, the next time you go over to David’s studio, just play the demo on his system; make sure it sounds the same. Then a few days later I get this phone call from Steve and he was excited. He says, “Man, [the guys in Toto] heard “I’ll Be Over You” and they love it; we’re gonna do it.” So that opened the door for me to write a lot of songs with Toto for their projects.
Here’s the video of Steve Perry’s hit, “Oh Sherrie,” which
was co-written by Randy Goodrum.
DK: I want to ask you about your new album and your artist side. Back in the ‘80s, you were signed to GRP Records, an excellent jazz/pop label. Can you tell me about your artist career?
Goodrum: Back then, I had moved up to Connecticut, and I was kickin’ around the idea of [being an artist]. I got an opportunity to open for some artists live. I opened for Ray Charles, and there was a guy in the audience, (music exec/producer) Larry Rosen, who was part of GRP Records & Grusin-Rosen Productions. I’d also done a guest spot as an artist on one of (jazz pianist) Dave Grusin’s records, Night Lines. So they offered me a record deal. At the time, I was toying with the idea of switching over and becoming a performing artist. So I put that record out, and it was a lot of fun to make that record. And I had a hit with ”Silhouette,” which was an AC hit.
After GRP, I did get opportunities to make three solo records for Polydor Japan. [Throughout these years] I was always steeped in the current record business, writing for other artists. So I was never able to carve out time to do more. Then a few years ago, I ran into (musician/producer) Larry Williams at a NAMM show, and we started co-writing some. And I told Larry that I’d written a bunch of songs on my own, and I would love it if he and I could co-produce a solo record on me, because this is the real me. I said, “If I’m gong to show who I really am as an artist, this is it.” And my new album Red Eye is exactly who I am as a recording artist. I’ve had to wear a couple different hats in my life, and I’ve always put being a recording artist on the shelf because of my songwriting opportunities. But I always wanted to get back to this, and that’s where I am.
DK: Thank you Randy for doing this interview. Currently, we’re all in the midst of the shutdown due to the pandemic, and there are no concerts now. But when things open back up, will you be playing live shows?
Goodrum: I would be glad to perform in some fashion…I have done a lot of songwriter-type shows. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I love being in front of people playing shows live, and getting feedback from people and performing.