Award winning songwriters Steve Dorph And the Jeffrey Steel You have a decades-old friendship forged at the heart of every parent’s nightmare. Every man suffered the death of a son. Steele’s son, Alex Levasseur, died in an ATV accident in 2007. He was 13 years old. Dorf’s son, famous songwriter Andrew Dorf, passed away while on vacation in 2017. He had just turned 40.
Dorf and Steele have known each other since the 1980s, well before their losses. Steele is best known for songs including “What Hurts the Most”, “She’d Give Anything” and “My Wish” and Dorff has written several hit songs including “Through the Years”, “I Just Fall In Love Again” and Heartland”. But they didn’t write a song together – until recently. And they said that as the songwriting dates developed, they started talking about life, and the talk inevitably turned to their sons.
“Of course, the conversation caught up with Andrew and Alex, and being both of us in this hideous club that no parent should ever be in,” Dorf said. We were talking about it, and then came shrugging shoulders, ‘Who knows why?’ Bing, I wrote the song itself.
“Who Knows Why,” which is inspired by the loss of their sons but not related to their deaths, will be released on Friday. PEOPLE premieres the emotional video of the song. “I don’t think we intended to write a song about our sons, but we stumbled upon the title,” Steele said.
Dorf sat at the piano and wrote an introduction that struck Steele’s heart in a matter of minutes. He said that Dorf’s simple musicality immediately made him lyrical. He knew he had to face the challenge.
“We started throwing darts at each other lyrically,” Steele said. “The lines were just dropping. You’re writing a lot of songs, and this is just one of those moments that spontaneously got through during the conversation.”
Steele said the chord changes stunned his mind; Dorf called “Who Knows Why” the “too free flow”. He said it’s not a country or pop song, and its rhythm is choppy, and so is its key. Then it weaves again smoothly into the second verse.
“It wasn’t anything we had planned,” Dorf said. “I just wrote the same song.”
During the writing process, it seemed clear to the men that they were writing a love song that was lifted by their collective experience of grief.
“It was really touching what we went through in our love for our sons,” Steele said. “I loved Andrew, man. I remember cuddling him the day before he left on that flight.”
When Steele discovers that Andrew is dead, his mind takes the inevitable journey back to the day his son died. He knew exactly how Dorph was feeling and didn’t know that something he could say would make it better. Text him with a broken heart and tell him he loves him.
“It’s something he’s been commanded, and I’m sure Jeffrey does,” Dorf said. “You see the pictures; in Andrew’s case, we hear great songs. I had the music, I had the songs, I had the memories.”
Andrew’s dog, Nash, lives with Dorph now, stealing pillows from his couch, greeting everyone who comes through the door with a cold paw and nose. “Nash is the kid,” Dorf said.
The guys wrote Who Knows Why over two years ago with no intention of showing it to artists for recording. They just wanted to sing it together at a concert sometime. They’re not often in the same place, but the opportunity came at City Winery earlier this year. “The place went crazy,” Dorf said, and they got a standing ovation. Then they decided to make a music video. They wanted to keep the shoot casual, wore no clothes, and shot the video at Dorff’s home recording studio. They gave the videographer personal family photos and couldn’t be happier with the result. “He did a great job of integrating the song’s feel about the lyric with the way it works with the boys,” Dorf said.
Men preserve their sons’ memories in other ways, too. Steele and his family started Alex Levasseur Memorial Fund, aims to motivate children in school by providing incentives and mentors in skateboarding, which Alex loved. “At some point, we will all experience something too much,” Steele said. “I think you should try to take that, which is destroying you, and make it good for someone else to help them. That’s really all you can do to keep yourself safe and keep you straight. I’m speaking for myself, but it was really nice to get the kids involved and try to point them in the right direction.”
Dorf dominated his son’s extensive song catalog. Before his death, Andrew wrote songs for artists including Blake SheltonAnd the Hunter HazeAnd the Gary Alan And the Kenny Chesney. Now Dorf is keeping Andrew’s memory alive by continuing to publish thousands of songs written by his son that were never recorded.
“I was shocked and amazed by the depth of the writing and the songs,” he said. “I had no idea until he was gone. I still find songs because it’s not easy to browse through many songs. I still find gems in this catalog. It’s become my job to keep the music alive for a while for him.”
Dorf started a songwriting scholarship at Belmont University in the name of his son. The men hope that ‘Who Knows Why’ will do for others what you did for them while writing it – evoke fond memories and be a balm for their hearts.
“It reminds you of all the good times and all those wonderful memories you had,” Steele said. “It leaves a smile on your face. It’s still a hopeful song that, although kind of like a sad love song, is hopeful.”