Jeffrey Steele and Steve Dorff Release ‘Who Knows Why’

Award-winning hit songwriters Steve Dorff and Jeffrey Steele have a decades-long friendship forged in the heartache of every parent’s nightmare. Each man hardened the death of a son. Steele’s son, Alex LeVasseur, died in an ATV accident in 2007. He was 13 years old. Dorff’s son, hit songwriter Andrew Dorff, died while on vacation in 2017. He had just turned 40.

Dorff and Steele have known each other since the ’80s, well before their losses. Steele is known for songs including “What Hurts the Most,” “She’d Give Anything” and “My Wish,” and Dorff has written hits including “Through the Years,” “I Just Fall In Love Again” and “Heartland. ” But they’d never written a song together — until recently. Songwriting appointments typically unfold, they said, they started talking about life, and the conversation inevitably turned to their sounds.

“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.”

Steve Dorff and Jeffrey Steele.
Anthony Scarlati

“Who Know Why,” inspired by the loss of their sons but isn’t about their deaths, is out Friday. PEOPLE is premiering the song’s sentimental video. “I don’t think we intended to write a song about our sounds, but we stumbled into the title,” Steele said.

Dorff sat down at the piano and wrote an intro that hit Steele in the heart within minutes. He said Dorff’s effortless musicianship put him on the spot lyrically. He knew he had to meet the challenge.

“We started just throwing darts at each other lyrically,” Steele said. “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.”

Steele said the chord changes blew his mind; Dorff called “Who Knows Why” “very free-flowing.” He said it’s not a country or a pop song, and its tempo fluctuates, as does its key. Then it weaves seamlessly back into the second verse.

“It wasn’t anything we planned,” Dorff said. “It just, the song just wrote itself.”

Throughout the writing process, it became obvious to the men they were writing a love song that was lifted by their collective experience of grief.

“It was really touching on what we had been through in our love for our sons,” Steele said. “I just loved Andrew, man. I remember hugging him the day before he left on that trip.”

When Steele found out Andrew died, his mind took the inevitable journey back to the day his son died. He knew precisely how Dorff was feeling and knew nothing he could say would make it better. He texted him a broken heart and told him he loved him.

“It’s something that I go through, and I’m sure Jeffrey does,” Dorff said. “You see pictures; in Andrew’s case, we hear great songs. I had the music, and I had the songs, and I have the memories.”

Andrew’s dog, Nash, lives with Dorff now, steals the pillows from his couch, and greets everyone who comes through the door with a paw and a cold nose. “Nash is the baby,” Dorff said.

The men wrote “Who Knows Why” more than two years ago without the intention of pitching it to artists to record. They just wanted to sing it in concert together sometime. They aren’t often in the same venue, but the opportunity came at City Winery earlier this year. Dorff said, “the place went crazy,” and they got a standing ovation. Then they decided to make the music video. They wanted to keep the shoot casual, didn’t dress up, and shot the video in Dorff’s home recording studio. They gave the videographer personal family photos and couldn’t be happier with the result. “He did a lovely job of integrating the feeling of the song around the lyric to how it works with the boys,” Dorff said.

The men keep their sons’ memories alive in other ways, too. Steele and his family started the ALEX LeVASSEUR MEMORIAL FUND, intended to motivate kids in school by providing incentives and mentors in skateboarding, which Alex loved.”At some point, we’re all going to face something that’s just too much,” Steele said . “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. That’s really all you can do to keep your sanity and keep you walking straight. I’m speaking for myself, but it’s been really good for me to get involved with kids and try to point them in the right direction.

“Dorff took control of his son’s expansive song catalog. Before he died, Andrew wrote songs for artists including Blake Shelton, Hunter Hayes, Gary Allan and Kenny Chesney. Now Dorff is keeping Andrew’s memory alive by continuing to pitch the thousands of songs his son wrote that were never recorded.

“I was just shocked and amazed at the depth of the writing and songs,” he said. “I had no idea until after he was gone. I still am finding songs because it’s not easy to go through that many songs. And I’m still finding gems in this catalog. It’s become a mission of mine to keep the music alive for him.

“Dorff started a songwriting scholarship at Belmont University in his son’s name. The men hope “Who Knows Why” does for others what it did for them while writing it — conjure up sweet memories and be a balm for their hearts.

“It reminds you of all the joyful times and all those great memories that you had,” Steele said. “It leaves a smile on your face. It still is a hopeful song, even though it is kind of a, like a sad love song, it’s hopeful.”

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