Grief has inspired innumerable songs from countless artists, but the experience of losing a child is a subject that never fails to touch our deepest emotions.
Such is the case with “Who Knows Why,” the powerful new soul-searching ballad from country music legends Jeffrey Steele and Steve Dorff, who both have gone through the tragedy of having lost sons much too soon.
“Who Knows Why” is their attempt to confront grief with the distance of time while learning to let go — but not forget. The song embraces simplicity by using a solo voice, piano, and strings to ask eternal questions about life and loss. In the end, as the title plainly indicates, we have to accept the fact that there are no answers.
Jeffrey Steele — a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer and also recognized by the Country Music Hall of Fame as a “Poet & Prophet” — is the songwriter behind scores of hit singles, many of which in recent years given voice to conservatives’ concerns about the state of America. Steele co-wrote the patriotic, chart-topping Aaron Lewis single “Am I the Only One,” as well as the recent, anti-woke John Rich anthem “Progress,” which hit the No. 1 spot on iTunes’ country music chart after Rich promoted the single on former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social platform.
Steele had known and worked with Steve Dorff — himself an inductee into the Songwriting Hall of Fame — for decades, long before their separate tragedies. Steele’s son, Alex LeVasseur, died when he was just 13 years old in an ATV accident in 2007. Dorff’s son, songwriter Andrew Dorff, died while on vacation in 2017 after having just turned 40.
“I don’t think we intended to write a song about our sons, but we stumbled into the title,” Steele said in a recent interview with People magazine.
“We started just throwing darts at each other lyrically,” he added. “The lines were just falling out. You write so many songs, and this is just one of those moments it was coming through on its own through the conversation.”
Dorff told People how the song came together naturally over the course of their songwriting meetings.
“Of course, we gravitated the conversation to Andrew and Alex, and being that we’re both in this hideous club that no parent should ever be in,” Dorff said. “We were talking about it, and then came a shrug of the shoulders, ‘Who knows why?’ Bing, the song kind of wrote itself.”
“It wasn’t anything we planned,” he said.
The songwriters penned “Who Knows Why” more than two years ago without the intention of pitching it to artists to record, according to People. Their hope to perform it one day in concert became a reality earlier this year at City Winery in Nashville.
The audience’s enthusiastic response inspired them to work with a videographer create a music video comprised of family pictures. “He did a lovely job of integrating the feeling of the song around the lyric to how it works with the boys,” Dorff said.
Steele and his family have started the a memorial fund for his son to motivate students by providing incentives and mentors in skateboarding, which his son Alex loved.
“At some point, we’re all going to face something that’s just too much,” Steele told People. “I just think you have to try to take that which is destroying you, and make it good for somebody else to help them out.”
Steele’s enormous body of work includes the single “Walk Toward the Fire,” a tribute to the late Andrew Breitbart to help mark the tenth anniversary of his death, which he penned with Breitbart’s own Jon Kahn.
Earlier this year, he released “I’m an American,” telling Breitbart News about his frustration with the state of the country under the current administration.
His 2021 single “Afghanistan” was inspired by the Biden administration’s disastrous pull out that left thousands of American civilians and allies stranded behind enemy lines and led to the deaths of 13 U.S. service members.