At the surface you may think that this is a story about the 2010 movie Blue Valentine. You may think it’s a story about how Ryan Gosling might just be a little bit perfection. You may think it’s about the power of soul music, the kind that when you hear it you just need to get up and dance—badly—to and you don’t even care who is watching.
And yes, it is partly about these things, but really, at the end of the day, it’s about the story behind the story.
It’s about a little piece of magic.
Blue Valentine was one of those movies that hit you in one of two ways. The first is the way it hit my husband. “Meh,” he said. The second is the way it hit me. It didn’t just hit me, it rocked me to my core and stayed with me for days. It got under my skin. It’s the story of a relationship between two people who loved hard and fought hard. The beauty of the film, however, was in the extent to which its two leads—Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams—went to become their characters of Dean and Cindy. They lived together for months; they learned to connect and they learned to pick at each other and they learned to twist the others’ words. They improvised a good portion of their scenes.
And Ryan Gosling even chose their song and surprised Michelle Williams with his choice…
Just like the movie, this song rocked me to my core. Immediately after the credits rolled, I downloaded the song and have been listening to it on repeat. (Unsurprisingly, my husband was pretty “meh” about the song as well.)
But this song, “You and Me” by Penny and the Quarters, is not one you will hear on the radio. It’s not rock, nor roll. It’s not pop or R&B. It’s full of heart and soul. But here’s the thing. Nobody knew where this song came from. In 2009, Ryan Gosling spent an evening at his PR agent’s house and listened to a little-known and commercially unsuccessful CD called Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label. It was a 19-track disc released by the Numero Group featuring songs recorded at Harmonic Sounds Studio in Columbus, Ohio. Gosling fell in love with Track #18 and knew he wanted it for the movie.
The problem was, no one at Numero Group knew who Penny and the Quarters were. Their recording was one that had fallen into a pile of many forgotten demos that were sold in an estate sale when the studio manager died.
And then the movie came out. Everyone wanted to download the song.
And then the search began. Everyone wanted to find this elusive Penny.
And then the magic happened.
Nannie Sharpe, 62, has spent the last 30 years working at a post office in Virginia. And it had been years since she thought about a song she recorded with her brothers and a young man named Jay Robinson in Columbus. In fact, she didn’t even know they were recording that day. Even though everyone was saying that the song was great, no record was ever made, and Nannie moved on with her life. That is, of course, until her daughter called her up and said that people were looking FOR HER. Jayma Sharpe knew that her mother and her uncles had dabbled in the Columbus soul scene in the late 60s and early 70s and after doing some digging she made the connection that Nannie Sharpe, who was nicknamed Penny by her father, was THE Penny. “You and Me” was recorded that day at Harmonic Sounds.
Rob Sevier, one of the owners at the Numero Group label seems so excited to have solved the mystery. “It started as a throwaway in a catalog we thought was pretty cool,” He says. “The song was charming, so we included it on the CD. And against all odds, we were proven correct long after it was released. The act of releasing the music aids in the discovery. Bringing the lost to light is a beautiful thing.”
It is a beautiful thing.
It just makes me wonder how many of these hidden gems are out there, just waiting for Ryan Gosling to find them.
Ali Martell, is the managing editor of Canada’s Premier Parenting Site, The Yummy Mummy Club. She is also a writer, an ellipticizer, a mother, a wife, a lion-tamer, a diet coke quitter, a juggler, a getter-of-drinks. She is Canada’s Emma Pillsbury and her three children tell her that she is a DOF (destroyer of fun). She is learning to use her camera better and love her thighs more. You can read more from Ali on her blog, Cheaper Than Therapy.