Meet the Artists
The Story of In This Very Room
Because there are now more than 350 recordings and over a million copies of IN THIS VERY ROOM in print, a great many people have wondered which room the song is about. In truth, the song will always be about whatever room it is sung in at any given moment. But the genesis of the song actually happened in a most unlikely place: a big old lonely hotel room at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I had been working in that very hotel as conductor for Carol Lawrence (Maria in West Side Story) for about a week. This particular night, after the show, I went back to my room and before going to bed I called home to my wife and children in Los Angeles to talk for a few minutes. During that conversation I really ached to be home with them. I fantacized crawling through the phone wire to magically be home with them in California.
After hanging up the phone, I turned off the lights and tried to go to sleep. I felt exceptionally lonely that night. I missed my family. Then, out of nowhere and in that pitch-dark room, the ideas of what became IN THIS VERY ROOM, came to me. And they came to me in the specific words that are now part of the song - with a heavy emphasis on "this VERY room". It was the word "very" that truly electrified me. I started thinking about what an awesome thing was happening in my VERY room in that VERY hotel. The word VERY enabled me to express, even to myself, how special I must be that, in the whole world; this was taking place in my VERY room. My loneliness vanished and I felt powerful and healed.
What has made "In This Very Room" so special over the years is that the nature of the words makes the song personal for whatever soloist or choir performs it and specific to the room they are in. Because of this, the song now has a long history of special rooms and special events to which it has referred. Below is the story of the room it was actually written about and the circumstances at the time that led to the song being written.
Well, being a songwriter, I was always on the alert to inspiring ideas. I knew then as I do now that any time words alone can do something like that to me, it was my job to ask if they could become a song. So I got out of bed in the total darkness and, without turning on a light, I found a pencil and wrote the first line of the song on some paper. I wrote in really large letters because I couldn't actually see anything in the dark. I got back in bed and fell asleep rather quickly, as I remember. My wife, Carol, arrived a couple of days later for a New Orleans weekend with me. We worked on the song at the piano in the hotel showroom. By the time she left for Los Angeles, the song was finished.
Since that time, the song has been used to refer to great cathedrals, tiny one-room country churches, hospital rooms, classrooms, wedding chapels, funeral home chapels and even the site that is thought to be the "Upper Room". It was sung at the one year anniversary and commemoration of the terrible bombing tragedy in Oklahoma City and even in a gymnasium used for a high school graduation in Chicago in the award-winning film, Hoop Dreams, which played in theaters all over the world and on PBS.
The song has never again been about my lonely hotel room. The song has its own life, its own ability to transform and inspire that no longer has anything to do with me at all. And that, I believe is why it has been so successful. Because whenever it is performed, due to the nature of the words, it is expressing something powerful and electrifying and entirely specific to the moment and the place. Its reach continues to amaze me.