TY WRIGHT | DISPATCHAbove: Zane Campbell, 16, sings There’s Worse Things Than That with his father, Gary.
LANCASTER, Ohio — The shaking and twitching induced by another seizure had just subsided when Gary Campbell got into his car in March to go fill up the gas tank.
The price — $3.99 a gallon — compounded his frustration, and the country singer-songwriter from Lancaster headed toward Columbus in a bad frame of mind.
“I was like ‘Man, oh, man!’ ” said the 54-year-old, who has suffered seizures for years.
His thoughts drifted to recent news events, including the ongoing wars in the Middle East and the earthquake and tsunami that had just struck Japan.
“I kept asking myself: ‘Where would I rather be? Would I rather be in a trench in Iraq?’ ” said Campbell, who grew up in New Albany. “I started realizing there’s a lot worse things than me having a two-minute seizure.”
The result was the song There’s Worse Things Than That, being sold to raise money for charity:
There’s a family in need from the storms we’ve had
There’s a child in bed from a sickness he has
And there’s a girl that took her life ’cause everything seemed so sad
And we’re complaining about the price of gas.
Campbell has written many songs and recorded several full-length albums, but There’s Worse Things Than That has a special place in his heart — partly because the subject is so personal.
Further underscoring the song’s truth: A week ago today, as Campbell was celebrating the completion of his CD of the song, his brother Mike, 50, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. He died on Sunday.
“It just reiterated what I’m trying to tell the world: It’s Christmastime, and maybe parents are worried they don’t have the money to buy their kids toys,” he said. “But, man, it could be a whole lot worse.”
Campbell had planned to record the song in Nashville, Tenn., until, one night at home while he was strumming his guitar and singing, his 16-year-old son, Zane — a member of the Fisher Catholic High School Chamber Choir — began singing a harmony.
“I heard him, and I was like ‘Hallelujah, that’s it,’ ” Gary Campbell said. “I just got goose bumps.”
He enlisted the help of the chamber choir — whose director, Katie Thomas, wrote harmony parts for the 19 members.
A month of rehearsals later, on Nov. 13, the students met Campbell at St. Mark Church in Lancaster to record the song.
Campbell and his brother Tom played guitars, and student Abbie Ailes played violin. But the choir stole the show, said Campbell, who paused twice during the recording session.
“Something about hearing those kids just floored me.”
Thomas offered a theory about Campbell’s reaction: “I think it (the emotion) comes from the fact they’re younger voices — and the youth coming up, hopefully, can change some of the things happening today.”
Choir member Melanie Smith said she felt privileged to be part of a professional recording project.
“It was such a unique experience and a lot of fun,” said Smith, a 17-year-old senior. “He (Campbell) was so into it and excited to have us there.”
To enhance the experience, Thomas asked her students to write about what the lyrics mean to them.
“To me, even as a kid, it put life in perspective,” Zane Campbell said.
Smith said she felt compelled to put herself in others’ shoes.
“We’ve all gone through a lot in our lives, and people can relate to this song from different angles.”
The CD cover features a photo of Campbell’s son Ryan, 31 — who served two tours of Army duty in the Middle East.
Virtually all of Campbell’s songs are autobiographical.
“I always tell people they’ve got to watch it when they talk to Gary,” said his wife, Cathy. “ You’ll say something, and he’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea.’ And the next thing you know, there’s a song written about it.”
My mom brought this story to my attention. I was so moved by the story, the talent, and the optimism of this man. I wanted to spread the word about him and his song. He is selling the song and giving the money to charity as the story says. What a wonderful man. What a wonderful perspective. We could all use a bit of that….and YES i am sending them The Candle Lighter Award! Don’t you agree they deserve it? Spread the word about this noble endeavor.