If you lived through the 70’s, you heard the Debbie Boone song “You Light Up My Life,” a thousand times. Some conservatives would have you think all music, our entire culture in fact, was “clean” in the 40s then Satan Elvis started dirtying it up and it got progressively worse throughout the late 60s and seventies. But theres all kinds of people and many want alternatives- G rated fare has never gone away.
Sick of it or not, this uplifting G rated positive song was the soundtrack of the 70s.
But theres a few not so G-Rated, not so uplifting, stories behind this song. Not about Debbie Boone, but about the guy who wrote it.
He was a thief and a serial rapist.
After being a successful advertising jingle writer ( a lot like Barry Manilow) Joseph Brooks came up with the idea for a movie and song.
he romantic drama about an aspiring singer, starring Didi Conn, became a box office success despite poor reviews. The title song Brooks composed for the film was an even bigger success; a cover version by Debby Boone reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and held the top position for 10 consecutive weeks, at that time the longest Number One reign in the chart’s history. With sales of over five million copies, the song ultimately became the biggest hit of the 1970s, and earned Brooks a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe Award and an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award.
In a 2013 biographical essay about Cisyk, Cisyk’s second husband, Ed Rakowicz (who worked as a sound engineer, but not for this song), wrote that songwriter Brooks was initially pleased with Cisyk’s recording of the song with orchestra (and her version appeared in the movie and soundtrack) but “tried to evade payment by false promises and by asking her to be an incidental actor in his film, implying huge rewards yet to come…” Rackowicz claimed that Brooks made improper advances toward Cisyk, and after being rebuffed, didn’t speak directly to her again, and continued to evade payments to her while commissioning another recording with Debby Boone. According to Rackowicz, “Besides wanting Boone to copy Kacey’s [sic] iconic hit reading of his songs, Brooks needed to cover up Kacey’s vocal leakage in the microphones in the piano recorded at the original demo session on which was overdubbed the orchestral track used in the film. Brooks didn’t want to pay to re-record the piano and orchestra again.” In a 2003 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Boone said, “I had no freedom whatsoever. Joe told me exactly how to sing it and imitate every inflection from the original recording.” Cisyk later retained a lawyer and sued Brooks for the fees she earned for her work on the record and for credit on the soundtrack, which she later received.
In 2009, Brooks became the subject of an investigation after being accused of a series of casting-couch rapes. He was indicted in May 2009 by the state Supreme Court for Manhattan (a trial-level court) on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges. While awaiting trial, Brooks killed himself in May 2011.
Sexual assault indictment
In June 2009, Brooks was arrested on charges of raping or sexually assaulting eleven women lured to his East Side apartment from 2005 to 2008. His female assistant, Shawni Lucier, was charged with helping him. At least four of the women accused him of sexual assault. He allegedly lured the women to his apartment to audition for movie roles. According to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, the women responded to a notice that Brooks had posted on Craigslist seeking attractive women to star in movie roles, and flew to New York from Pacific Coast states or Florida, usually at Brooks’ expense.
He was indicted on June 23, 2009. He was to be tried in the state Supreme Court for Manhattan (a trial-level court) on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges. In December 2009, prosecutors indicated that they would ask the grand jury to consider adding even more charges, in part because “additional victims” had come forward. However, Brooks died on May 22, 2011, before he could be tried.
The original, lesser known version of the 70s song: