AROUND THE QUADS
Behind the Hit Song
Delilah DiCrescenzo '05 Inspired "Hey There Delilah"
This summer, it was hard to go very far with the radio tuned to a pop station without hearing the sound of the Plain White T’s ballad:
Delilah DiCrescenzo ’05 earned All-America honors running for Columbia.
Photo: Randy Martin ’80
Hey there Delilah
What’s it like in New York City?
I’m a thousand miles away
But girl tonight you look so pretty
Yes you do
Times Square can’t shine as bright
I swear it’s true …
The muse for guitarist Tom Higgenson’s song is Delilah DiCrescenzo ’05, an All-American steeplechase runner and one of the stars of Columbia’s women’s cross-country team that won three consecutive Heptagonal Games championships. The Chicago native is beginning her second year as an assistant track and cross-country coach at Bryn Mawr College and is training for the Olympic Trials for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
As for the song’s story of a long-distance relationship between the guitarist and the college student, that is fiction. “There was never anything between us,” says Higgenson. “It was kind of funny — kind of sad, actually. The story of my life.”
A friend introduced Higgenson to DiCrescenzo five years ago. “I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen,” he says. “I told her, ‘I have a song about you already.’ Obviously, there was no song. But I thought it was smooth.”
It didn’t work. “I wasn’t interested. I was dating somebody,” says DiCrescenzo. But the seed had been planted. It took Higgenson a year to write the song, and “Hey There Delilah” was released in 2005. Two years later, it climbed to the top of the U.S.Billboard Pop 100 chart, and from July 3–27, 2007, it was the most downloaded song on the U.S. iTunes Music Store.
“When I’m at the gym, it’s playing; when I’m at the pool, it’s playing,” DiCrescenzo told USA Today last summer. “Part of me wants to scream at the top of my lungs that it’s about me. Another part of me wants to cower and say it’s not.”
As for the non-relationship, the two kept in touch by e-mail and Higgenson brought DiCrescenzo a disk with the song when he finished it in 2004. “It was so beautifully written,” she says. “There was pressure to live up to this ideal. I didn’t know how to be polite but, you know, ditch him.”
So Higgenson didn’t get the girl, but he did come away with a hit song. Besides, he says, “If we had lived happily ever after, then what would my next song be about?”
Hey there Delilah
You be good and don’t you miss me
Two more years and you’ll be done
And I’ll be making history like I do
You’ll know it’s all because of you
We can do whatever we want to
Hey there Delilah here’s to you
This one’s for you.
Excerpts from “Hey There Delilah”
© Thomas Higgenson.