The Story of Video Diary

I wrote the song, Video Diary, back in early 1989, nearly a year after my wife and I had our first child. We named her, Emilia, after my wife’s great-grandmother, Emma. The idea for the song came to me after a casual conversation with a group of friends. One of our friends shared that she had just seen a TV interview about a cute old couple. They recently bought their first video camera so they could record themselves telling their life stories for their grandchildren, realizing that at their age of 81 years, they wouldn’t be around forever. I made the simple comment, “Cool…they’re creating a Video Diary.” To a then struggling songwriter in Nashville, the phrase stuck in my head and I thought it might make a good song title. A few days later, I thought about the phrase and all the footage I had shot of Emilia on our first Panasonic camera, which was the size of a small microwave.

The song started coming slowly. But all the while I was writing the song, I didn’t think it was all that special, and besides, who would ever want to record this? What’s so special about a song about videotaping your kid?

Then one night I stayed up watching a late news show. A middle-aged couple was talking about the 16 years old daughter they had just tragically lost. A grainy home video of their daughter played, waving good-bye to her parents and telling them that she loved them and would see them soon. When it was over, the mother tearfully commented, “That was the last gift our daughter gave us.”

I turned off the TV, walked into my daughter’s bedroom, sat in a rocking chair, and watched her sleep. The next morning, I wrote the last lines of the song, “you gave this gift to me, and now it’s yours for you to see.” I realized that this song was a personal gift to Emilia, and I promised to follow the song’s theme and record her life for her to see one day. I also thanked God for opening my critical writer’s heart and for the blessings I had.

A few months later, I made a demo recording just for Emilia. To save money on the session, I had sung it myself. I’d never intended to pitch the song for anyone to consider recording it. Then one day I got the courage to play it for my ASCAP rep, Tom Long. He commented that the song was one of the best songs I ever wrote, but it sounded like a commercial for video cameras. I laughed, but he was serious and kept encouraging me to try to pitch it to some company.

A few weeks later I mailed the song to a handful of companies, just to see what would happen. Then one late August day in 1989, I received a phone call from a Vice President at Panasonic, who wanted my song. The song was eventually licensed for the next four years for an in-house corporate spot. Emilia, age 2, was even one of the many children we used in the spot. One year later, I wrote another song for Panasonic, and it became the inspiration for their 1992 Summer Olympic campaign. After that, I began writing full-time and wrote jingles for other companies and ad agencies. Around 1994, Panasonic and I parted ways amicably.

My life evolved in the late 1990’s, when I went to graduate school, earned a Master’s degree, became a full-time teacher, and part-time free-lance writer. My wife and I had also earlier welcomed another child, Joseph, into the world in 1994, and we continued recording our children’s lives, from little moments to special times.

Nearly fifteen years had passed, when this September, I received a call out of the blue from the same V.P. of Panasonic. He wanted our song back for an Internet campaign, this time promoting a variety of Panasonic products with the theme of inspiring families to record the special moments of their lives. We talked about Emilia, who at the age of 20 is in her 3rd year of college. He asked if I had early footage of Emilia growing up over these years?

My nephew, Adam, later jokingly said, “Uncle Tom, you were always bringing out your camcorders and recording everything everyone did. You got us all on tape!”

As I went through our many home videos, Emilia and Joseph and all of us, relived some of the tender times of our lives. I even saw videos of my late parents, playfully holding Emilia up to a mirror, to see her-self. Mom & Dad looked so happy playing with Emilia. You see the scene in the video.

While making the 60 sec. spot, I realized that Panasonic and I were truly creating a, “Video Diary,” just like I wrote about in 1989.

And that is the story behind the song, Video Diary.

Love…from our family, to yours.

Thomas J. Occhipinti