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© 2019 Alan Humm
CCM loves to have stories from the author's life that somehow illustrate
where the song came from. In the case of "I can only imagine,'" they
took that to the max and made a movie to go with it! The vast majority
of my songs, on the other hand, have no such story, but this is one of
the few exceptions. If you don't like stories, feel free to skip to the
song, otherwise read on.
Years ago (I will not tell you how many), at my 40th birthday party, I was introduced to Shawn Foerst (whose name some of my more observant listeners will recognize from previous personnel lists that come with my songs). He was in his late teens at the time, and he was a musician. I think that the folks who introduced us hoped we would find a connection of some sort. We did, and due to issues I will not unpack, he ended up living with us for several years.
The song-story begins somewhere in the meantime when his then girl-friend left him. Considering with whom he ended up, this turned out to be a huge stroke of luck (IMHO), but of course it did not feel that way at the time (as most of us know from hard experience). I thought it would be therapeutic to write a song about it. He had been an 80s hair-band rocker (fairly recently), so the rock ballad format seemed most appropriate.
I came up with some chords and a melody of which he approved, so the next step was to get lyrics. The way we did that was that I started carrying a notebook, and every time he would go into a monologue (sometimes prompted) about how his life sucked after being dumped, I would take notes. The lyrics grew out of that.
In the end, I actually wrote most of the song (except for the coda lyrics), but virtually every line came out of something Shawn had said. [The only exception is the hook, which I got from inverting Will McFarlane's "Heart of Stone" from one of his early albums.] So the song is most certainly a collaboration, even if I technically wrote most of it.
It made sense that he would do the main vocal, of course.
Remember, this is a rock ballad influenced by the '80s; adjust your volume accordingly!
Main vocals, drum machine, bass, rhythm guitar: Shawn Foerst
Picked and lead guitars, back vocals: Alan Humm