Playing the “Piano in the Dark” With Brenda Russell

Happy #SongLyricsSunday! Today’s prompt is the find a song with musical instruments mentioned in the title or lyrics. I am excited about this prompt because I can share one of my favorite songs: “Piano in the Dark” by R&B singer-songwriter Brenda Russell. This late 80s tune is often played in my apartment because I just love it a lot, especially the mood. But did you know that Russell originally didn’t know what this song was about when she wrote it? Let’s take a behind a scene look at the song below!

When He Played Piano in the Dark

“Piano in the Dark” was the first single off Russell’s 1988 album Get Here. This piano-driven ballad features Joe Esposito on backing vocals. Russell co-wrote the song with Jeff Hull and Scott Cutler. Many would know Culter as he wrote the 1997 hit song “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia as well as a member of the alternative rock band Ednaswap. He has written countless songs for artists like Madonna, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, and Katy Perry. Did you know he also wrote “Listen” for the movie version of Dreamgirls which won a Critic’s Choice Award?

In the early stages of the song, Russell didn’t understand what the title meant. Eventually, she carved a story out of it, saying this in a past interview:

Well, its about this woman. Her lover plays piano. And she wants to leave him, because she’s really kind of bored. But every time she does that, he sits down and starts playing. And it sucks her right back in. She’s so in love with the way he plays. And he plays in the dark, theoretically. It’s not that literal, necessarily. But that’s what keeps her to him, basically, is his music. And I just found that was an interesting story to write about.

This 1988 song wasn’t originally supposed to be the lead single off Get Here, it was supposed to be “Gravity”. However, trumpeter Herb Alpert pushed “Piano in the Dark” as he felt the song represented Russell more as an artist. It was the artist’s biggest hit in the 80s as it reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, #8 on the R&B charts, and #3 on the Adult Contemporary Chart chart.s It help the singer-songwriter return to the Billboard charts as her last entry was in 1979 with “So Good, So Right”. It also garnered Russell two Grammy nominations.

I love everything about “Piano in the Dark” from the somber mood to Russell’s incredible vocals. How about you? What do you enjoy about this song? Listen to it below and let me know what you think in the comments.

Here is a cover by Jennifer Rush did in 1997:

here is a dance remix released in 1991 by AMP:

American saxophonist George Howard covered in 1989:

The Rules for #SongLyricsSunday

(This challenge is currently hosted by the generous Jim Adams.)

Anyone can participate in #SongLyricsSunday, even if you aren’t a music blogger! If you want to participate, here are the rules:

  • Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not.
  • Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due.
  • Make sure you also credit the singer/band and if you desire you can provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
  • Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
  • Pingback to this post will eventually work, as long as you are being patient, but you can also place your link in the comments if you don’t like to wait.
  • Read at least one other person’s blog, so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
  • Feel free to suggest future prompts.
  • Have fun and enjoy the music.