|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