John Bucchino(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
John Bucchino
(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
Over the past seven years or so, composer-lyricist John Bucchino's song "Grateful" has become extremely popular on the cabaret/piano bar circuit and has been recorded by the likes of Art Garfunkel, Michael Feinstein, David Campbell, Amanda McBroom, and Brian Lane Green. Now the lyrics to the song will form the basis of a new children's book project that is being put together by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, for publication by Harper Collins.

"I've always sort of fantasized that 'Grateful' would become the song that people sing at Thanksgiving," Bucchino tells TheaterMania, "because there isn't really a Thanksgiving song. So one of the amazing things about this project is that Julie and Emma first heard the song at a Thanksgiving dinner: Anne Runolfsson, who was Julie's understudy in Victor/Victoria and has become a good friend of the family, sang the song a cappella at the dinner table for everyone just because she felt it was appropriate for the occasion. Evidently, they loved it. Julie said something like, 'That song makes me want to sing again.' Then, a month or so later, it was Emma's birthday and Anne gave Emma a copy of my Grateful CD. Well, Emma's five-year-old son Sam loved the song, too; he would get in the car and ask her to play it. That got Emma to thinking about adapting the song as a book."

Though Andrews is, of course, best known as a stage and film star of the first magnitude, she is also the author of such beloved children's books as The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Mandy, and Little Bo. Most recently, she has been collaborating with her daughter on a series of books about a character named Dumpy the Dump Truck, illustrated by Tony Walton (Andrews's first husband and Emma's father).

According to Bucchino, the text of the Grateful book will consist entirely of the lyrics to his song, with illustrations by "this incredible woman from Finland whose name is a mouthful: Anna-Liisa Hakkarainen. Her work is just unbelievable, really magical and profound." The book will be packaged with a CD that will feature Andrews reading the lyrics and will also include a new recording of the song by Art Garfunkel with new orchestrations by Don Sebesky. "Artie was the first person to sing the song, a few weeks after I wrote it," notes Bucchino. "He was also the first person to hear it."

If all goes well, Bucchino's longtime wish for the song may come true. "The title of the book is going to be 'Grateful: A Song of Thanksgiving,'" he says. "And it's scheduled to be in stores next fall, so I'm sure they'll be connecting it to the holiday in terms of the advertising. It couldn't be more perfect." For more information on Bucchino and/or to keep tabs on the release date of the Grateful book and CD, visit the website www. johnbucchino.com. The complete lyrics to "Grateful" follow:

I've got a roof over my head,
I've got a warm place to sleep.
Some nights I lie awake counting gifts
Instead of counting sheep.

I've got a heart that can hold love,
I've got a mind that can think.
There may be times when I lose the light
And let my spirits sink,
But I can't stay depressed
When I remember how I'm blessed

Grateful, grateful,
Truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful,
Truly blessed
And duly grateful.

In a city of strangers,
I've got a family of friends.
No matter what rocks and brambles fill the way,
I know that they will stay until the end.

I feel a hand holding my hand --
It's not a hand you can see
But, on the road to the promised land,
This hand will shepherd me
Through delight and despair,
Holding tight and always there.

Grateful, grateful,
Truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful,
Truly blessed
And duly grateful.

It's not that I don't want a lot
Or hope for more, or dream of more,
But giving thanks for what I've got
Makes me so much happier than keeping score.

In a world that can bring pain,
I will still take each chance --
For I believe that, whatever the terrain,
Our feet can learn to dance.
Whatever stone life may sling,
We can moan or we can sing.

Grateful, grateful,
Truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful.
Truly blessed
And duly grateful.