NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Talk about a smash hit. They do not get any bigger than the R&B classic “In the Still of the Night” and New Haven’s own Fred Parris was the genius behind it.
News 8 spoke to Parris about the song back in 2016.
“I think the lyrics pertain to everybody, at that age, 16, 17 years old, it’s a love song and that’s what people like,” Parris said at the time.
Fred wrote the song and it was his baritone voice that propelled it to become one of the most popular songs ever recorded.
‘It was just a song that he wrote from his heart, his feelings,” said his wife Emma Parris.
Emma told News 8 her late husband was even surprised by its incredible success.
“He always said he never expected that song to reach the plateau that it did, he just didn’t see that,” she said.
Fred and The Five Satins recorded the tune in the basement of St. Bernadette Church in New Haven in 1956.
“He felt that the song was blessed from the very beginning by St. Bernadette,” Emma said.
Richard G. Freeman was one of The Five Satins, sharing the stage with Fred for more than five decades. He said the story behind the song was a deeply personal one for Fred.
“He said he used to go with a young lady before he joined the service and they wanted to try to stay together but she left New Haven and went I think to California or someplace like that,” Freeman said. “So it sort of hit him pretty hard… He was on guard duty in Philadelphia and sat down and wrote this song.”
Fred’s long career as a composer and performer was marked by so many milestones. In recent years, the song has connected with a new generation of music fans. It was featured in hit movies like “The Irishman,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Sister Act 2.”
His connection to St. Bernadette was a lasting one.
In 2016, children from the church’s school serenaded him to mark the 60th anniversary of the song and he was joined by Vinny Mazzetta, who played the saxophone on the song.
As fate would have it, Fred gave his final performance with The Five Satins at the church last year.
“It was phenomenal… it was just beautiful,” Emma said.