Steve Dorff and Jeffrey Steele are bonded by a parent's worst fear – the loss of a child. The award-winning songwriters have a decades-long friendship that has grown in recent years over their mutual understanding of what that loss feels like. Steele's son, Alex LeVasseur, 13, died in an ATV accident in 2007. Dorff's son, hit songwriter Andrew Dorff, 40, died while on vacation in 2017.
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."
They'd never written a song together — until recently. The men said they started talking about life, and the conversation turned to their sons.
"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 told People. "We were talking about it, and then came a shrug of the shoulders, 'Who knows why?' Bing, the song kind of wrote itself."
"Who Knows Why," which isn't about death, is out now.
"I don't think we intended to write a song about our sons, but we stumbled into the title," Steele said, explaining they started throwing "lyrical darts" at each other."
"The lines were just falling out," Steele said. "You write so many songs, and this is just one of those moments it was coming through on its own through the conversation."
Steele was particularly inspired by Dorff's chord changes on the piano, and Dorff called the song very free-flowing. "Who Knows Why" doesn't fit in any genre and has a fluctuating key and tempo.
As they wrote, it became apparent they were writing a song about enduring grief.
They wrote the song more than two years ago with no intention of it being pitched to singers to record. Steele and Dorff wanted to sing the song together in the same venue, which happened at City Winery earlier this year. The song received a standing ovation from the audience, and the experience prompted the idea for a video. The singer-songwriters wanted to keep the clip simple and shot it in Dorff's studio, including many family photos.
In addition to the song, Steele and Dorff keep the memory of their sons alive in other ways. Steele and his family started the ALEX LeVASSEUR MEMORIAL FUND to motivate kids in school by providing incentives and mentors in skateboarding, which Alex loved.
Dorff took control of his son's massive song catalog, which contains more than 1,000 songs. Artists including Blake Shelton, Hunter Hayes, Gary Allan, and Kenny Chesney have recorded Andrew's songs. Dorff is honoring Andrew's memory alive by continuing to pitch his son's work.
They hope "Who Knows Why" helps others heal the way it helped them.
"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."