2019 : One Shining Moment Written by Pontiac Native

April 7, 2023 all-day

What is perhaps the greatest sports song of all time came about thanks to a waitress, a napkin, and Larry Bird.

And the writer is a Michigan native and basketball fan who supports both the Spartans and Wolverines.

David Barrett will be at Monday’s national championship. If he sticks around until the final buzzer, after the confetti falls, he’ll see the winning team watch a tribute video backed by his song. Like the previous 32 champions, either Virginia or Texas Tech will have its “One Shining Moment.”

The song is iconic: the opening drum kick, the uplifting piano chords, the exhilarating brass. And those incredible lyrics.

The ball is tipped, and there you are…

Barrett, born in Pontiac, Michigan, and raised in the Detroit metropolitan area, attended Albion College on a basketball scholarship. Music was his passion, and after a performance in East Lansing in March of 1986, a then-31-year-old Barrett found himself alone at the Varsity Inn bar.

An attractive waitress sat next to him and, Barrett, overcome with nerves, started talking about Larry Bird, whose Boston Celtics were playing on a nearby TV.

Uninterested, she left. And Barrett jotted a song title on a napkin.

The next morning, while waiting for a friend to show up for breakfast, he wrote the lyrics on a different napkin in about 20 minutes. He recorded it, and sent a tape to Armen Keteyian, a friend and journalist in New York. Keteyian took it to a CBS Sports executive, who loved it.

After Indiana beat Syracuse for the 1987 college basketball national championship, “One Shining Moment” made its television debut, played over highlights from the NCAA Tournament.

It has played at the conclusion of every Tournament since.

Barrett is in Minneapolis this weekend, courtesy of the NCAA. He performed, spoke, and mingled with guests at a workshop on Sunday, which just happened to be his 65th birthday.

Barrett has composed for the Olympic Games. He’s written Emmy-winning scores for PBS documentaries. But he’s best known for “One Shining Moment.” (His personal email address includes the song’s title.)

For several years, CBS played the version recorded by Barrett. Other versions, with Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross on vocals, were used. Vandross’ version has been used since 2011.

Barrett said on Sunday that “One Shining Moment” was supposed to be played by a better pianist but he was too disciplined.

“I played it like a chimpanzee on too much coffee,” Barrett said. “But it worked because I got after it.”

The music and vocals are top-notch, but the lyrics are what grab listeners.

“The ball is tipped // and there you are // you’re running for your life // you’re a shooting star // And all the years // no one knows // just how hard you worked // but now it shows…”

“And when it’s done // win or lose // you always did your best // cuz inside you knew…”

It is the perfect song for the moment, encapsulating the excitement and emotion of March Madness.

Barrett said he never expected the song to have such an impact.

“I envisioned nothing. I was writing a lot of songs. This was one of them. It felt inspired when I wrote it. It just ‘whooshed’ out of me.”

Source : Andrew Kahn, “‘One Shining Moment’: The story behind the best song in sports history (and the Michigander who wrote it)“, MLive, April 8, 2019.