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Dan Hill Talks "Sometimes When We Touch"

Dan Hill

Dan Hill was only 19 when he wrote "Sometimes When We Touch", a song that has managed to stay on the pop culture radar since it was released in 1978. We chatted with Dan via phone about the song's origin, working with the toughest boxer in the world, and a little bit of heartbreak.

Can you give us a little backstory about the making of "Sometimes When We Touch"?
I originally wrote the lyrics when I was 19, because I was absolutely in love with an older woman who wasn't in love with me. I wanted her to be in love with me and me only, but she was seeing all these other guys - rich guys, football players. I thought the only way to get her attention would be to write a song that was so passionate that it would make her want to be with me. So I called her on the phone and played the song on my guitar (that's what you did in those days) and after 4 minutes she said, "Dan, did anyone tell you that for a 19-year-old, you're too intense?" And she ran off with a football player.

So, the lady turned you down - how did you unleash it to the world?
What happened was nobody shared my enthusiasm of the song - people thought it was too wordy, too anylitical. So I put out two albums, neither of which included the song. After two albums, my publisher set me up with Barry Mann (Righteous Brothers, Dolly Parton) at the age of 22. I wasn't sure how to write with him - he preferred to write lyrics on the fly, and I was used to writing on actual torment. I told him that I had something in the works, but I didn't want him to know that it was an old song, in case he would think it was a throwaway. I ran back to my hotel to get the lyrics and read them over the phone. Then, in the time it took me to locate a cab company to go back to the studio, he had already written music to the song.

How long was that?
Probably about 5 minutes.

What pop culture usage of the song has made you smile the most?
When Manny Pacquiao recorded the song, it was pretty funny because he's a world champion boxer. I love the disconnect of this vulnerable song covered by the toughest guy in the world. I also love that it was released the year before he was born!

What was it like working with a boxer?
Manny came in to Capitol studios after training for a big fight. After 12 hours of training, he was sweating and wearing all his boxing gear and I was coaxing him through a song. He's a really nice guy, but he'll never tell me what part he wants to sing, and what part he wants me to sing. We just did this press conference in front of hundreds of people - I'm literally singing the song with with him, not knowing what part he wants me to sing. He's keeping me on my toes.

Like a boxer should.
You're right! He had this giant entourage like Elvis meets Muhammad Ali. They all went in the studio where the mic was, and I had to keep telling them to keep quiet. I'd say who are you - "I'm Manny's real estate agent." I've worked with Britney Spears - big names - I have yet to see anyone with an entourage like he has. The world of boxing is so different than anything else I've seen.

Other than Manny, the song has been covered by some big time names. For which version do you feel the most sentiment?
I like Tammy Wynette and Mark Gray's version cause I never knew much about country music before that. The fact that [the song] jumped into a different genre was great - I was really tickled to see someone from a different world tackle it.

We've got a competitor covering you on Sunday - how are you feeling about it?
I'm just thrilled that it's on the show. Thrilled and honoured that it's still remembered after all these years, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Warren Dean Flandez will cover "Sometimes When We Touch" this Sunday at 9pm! If you haven't seen the line-up for week three, mosey on over to our list.