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So many nights, I sit by my window, wondering who was it, who sang this here song. It’s painfully slow. It has that typical seventies, written on a piano with factory-stamped background ‘orchestra’ accompaniment. It’s kind of pretty, but you just want it to stop after the first chorus. Or, who knows? Maybe you love it. Love it or hate it, this song was a smash hit in 1977. It had the distinction of spending more time at number one than any other song since 1956’s “Singing the Blues” by Guy Mitchell.
Who Sang You Light Up My Life?
Deborah Boone recorded You Light Up My Life in October 1977. It had been the main title soundtrack for the movie of the same title. Did I mention it was a movie? Why was Debby Boone offered this chance? Because she was the daughter of Pat Boone, not to mention the granddaughter of Red Foley of country music fame. Debby, along with her sisters, had been involved in music for her entire life, touring state fairs, theaters, and revivals with The Boones, led by Shirley and Pat Boone. Both Debby and her sisters tried later to record some music of their own, so-called ‘white soul,’ but none of it did well. Her sisters, Cherry, Lindy, and Laury, gave up, but Debby was still willing to keep trying.
Debby’s version was produced by Mike Curb of Curb Records, music producer and future lieutenant governor of California, known for his anti-drug crusade. The song was written by Joe Brooks, a writer of advertising jingles who also wrote such hit songs as My Ship is Comin’ In and If Ever I See You Again. Brooks heavily guided Boone in her rendition of the song.
For reasons that will become clear, Debby Boone’s version is often thought to have been the first and to have been included in the soundtrack of the movie. However, the original singer was actually Kasey Cisyk, although she was not listed on the released recording, which just said ‘Original Cast.’ The song was lip-synced by lead actress Didi Conn. This original soundtrack recording was never actually a big hit, only reaching no. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100. Boone recorded her version over the same pre-existing instrumental track used in the film, so it’s no wonder people get the two versions mixed up.
Boone’s cover of You Light Up My Life spent 25 weeks on the Billboard charts and ten weeks at no. 1, not to mention 14 weeks in the top ten, 16 weeks in the top 20, and 21 weeks in the top 40. It also topped Record World magazine’s Top 100 Singles Chart for 13 weeks, another record.
It was only after Debby Boone’s version became a smash hit, that the original recording became recognized and earned writer Joseph Brooks a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe Award for Best Original, and an American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) award.
Other Charting Songs by Debby Boone
California: no. 50
God Knows: no. 74
Baby, I’m Yours: no.33 (US Country chart)
1980s (Country Charts)
Are You on the Road to Lovin’ Me Again: no. 1 (+no. 32 Adult Contemporary)
Free to Be Lonely Again: no. 14
Take It Liek a Woman: 44
Perfect Fool 23 (+ no. 37 Adult Contemporary)
It’ll Be Him: 46
Joseph Brooks Controversy and Death
Joseph Brooks was accused by Cisyk’s second husband of having made improper advances toward the original singer, Cisyk. He was also accused of trying to evade payment to her by making false promises like asking her to be an actor in the film and pretending that there were ‘huge rewards yet to come.’ After being accused of improper advances and being rebuffed by Cisyk, he refused to speak to her again and continued to avoid paying her even while recording the song again with Debby Boone.
Cisyk’s husband, Ed Rokowicz, said that Brooks wanted Boone to essentially copy Kacey Cisyk’s track and also had to cover up vocal leakage that had occurred ruing the original recording. Boone herself confirmed, in 2003 that “I had no freedom whatsoever. Joe told me exactly how to sing it and imitate every inflection from the original recording.” So, again, it’s fairly clear why these two versions can be easily confused. It’s also clear the fact that the Debby Boone version was more than likely based on name recognition and happenstance. Pat Boone, after all, was the most successful pop singer during the 1950s and into the 1960s, second only to Elvis Presley. He held a billboard record for the most consecutive weeks on the charts—225 weeks—with at least one song charting each week during that time, if not more; a record only broken in the 2010s. He was also the host of the Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, which aired for 115 episodes between 195 and 1960 and which featured many famous musical artists. He was, and still is, a household name and many people would have been aware of his daughters, including Debby, even before she was famous. Radio DJ’s would have no doubt mentioned her superstar father when the song was getting airplay.
The original singer, Cisyk, never got the true credit she deserved but she later sued Brooks for her fees and for credit on the original soundtrack, which she eventually received.
Joseph Brooks was arrested in 2009 on charges of rape and sexual assault of eleven women that he lured to his apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. His female assistant, Shawni Lucier, was accused of helping him lure the women. He committed suicide on May 22, 2011, before he could be tried.