John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

A Local Songwriter to Remember

The late Stephanie Kasper’s “Don’t Forget” is a remarkable song.

By - Mar 28th, 2016 04:39 pm
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Stephanie Kasper. Photo courtesy of John Sieger.

Stephanie Kasper. Photo courtesy of John Sieger.

There are some degrees of misfortune that are very hard to witness. Especially up close. I know this sounds like the preface to a tragedy, but it’s not that at all, if you believe making music is its own reward and that great song writing can live on.

Stephanie Kasper was one of my songwriting students. She was a retired school teacher and lived on the margins, scraping by and taking some hard lessons in life she undoubtedly experienced, and turning them into darkly humorous songs. There was wickedness behind her beaming smile that was so refreshing — she looked like a sweet older lady, but it was a disguise. She died last week of cancer, alone at home and, like Eleanor Rigby, there wasn’t much notice. There should have been, if only for one song, the hard to forget “Don’t Forget.”

Stephanie wrote little satires that made sly digs at problematic people. One was called “Trying Very Hard Not To Hate You.” It describes something I never heard in a song before, that feeling of a worn last nerve somebody is irritating as you force a smile, drum your fingers and wait for this person to vaporize. It’s a delight. So is her surreal cautionary tale, performed to snapping fingers, called “Never Move A Mattress In The Rain.”

She had a sentimental side, too. She wrote one song in particular that causes me to mist up a little. “Don’t Forget,” is something else. It’s up there with a lot of universal love songs you would consider timeless. Like “Forever Young,” which almost demands a raised glass when sung, it is meant for everybody. It’s a call for kindness and love in a world that too often comes up short in both categories. It’s probably on God’s iPod right next to “Imagine.”

I produced one record for Stephanie with the delightful title, “Uneasy Listening.” There was no budget, just a need to get these things down. Others in the group of writers I work with ponied up to cover the cost of manufacturing a couple hundred copies of the CD. It’s one more CD out there in an ocean of music, with little chance of being heard — but it really should be.

The words “Don’t Forget,” which seemed to have been channeled rather than thought up, might have come from the Buddha:

Somewhere in the world
Every minute of the night
Someone is putting a baby to bed
Telling them to sleep tight

Somewhere in the world
Every hour of the day
Someone is sending a child off to school
Saying be on your way

Don’t forget to tell them you love them
Don’t forget to tell them you love them

There are people who invite love
And give it back to you
There are people who are hard to like
Try to love them too

Somewhere in the world
Every moment that you live
Someone you know needs a touch or a word
Only you can give

Don’t forget to tell them you love them
Don’t forget to tell them you love them

© Stephanie Kasper and Paul Rebek

One of the best examples of quietly humorous understatement I can think of is the line: “There are are people who are are hard to like.” No kidding! Right now I’m focusing my less-than-charitable thoughts on a shallow, bigoted billionaire with a bad combover. Should I try to love him too? Nowhere in the song does it say it’s easy or that you will succeed every time. As an ideal to strive for, it only asks you to try to understand what makes some people so unpleasant.

Human kindness, as Randy Newman once joked, is overflowing. In Steffie’s case, alas, it didn’t flow often enough in her direction. She relied on the kindness of a small circle of friends and paid them back with a brand of wisdom and humor rookie songwriters can only hope to gain some day.
The hard part of this story is that Steffie died at home alone, and was found by the police. The cantankerous part of her may have preferred that scenario, but it’s still hard to process. The officer did mention she had a very peaceful expression on her face. Small comfort, but I’ll take it. She once told me she expected to be on stage at the Oscars accepting the Song Of The Year Award by her 80th birthday. This one beats the hell out of most winners in that category lately, so maybe some producer or director will some day dig a little deeper than the usual Disney hack product  and stumble onto “Don’t Forget.” A long shot, sure, but if by chance it happens I hope Steffie’s looking down and enjoying it.

One thought on “Sieger on Songs: A Local Songwriter to Remember”

  1. Leslie Sommers Melendez says:

    Was a close friend of Steffie in high school, but sadly didn’t see her after graduation. She was smart and witty and so much fun to be around. So sorry about the sad circumstances of her death.

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