Songwriting faculty member Henry Gaffney passed away on May 23. (Read the Berklee news story.) Alumnus David Ragland wrote a tribute.
I was lucky enough to have Henry Gaffney for a lyric-writing class, a production class, and for a one-on-one directed study in songwriting class. He was brutally honest, and he encouraged everyone to follow their hearts when it came to their writing. He was also brutally honest with himself, often referring to his early career as “self-indulgent,” and that it took him time to find his style and voice. The final classes of the semester were a highlight when he would have all the students announce the grades we thought we deserved and back it up with an explanation.
He always had great stories to share. My favorite story of his was that he worked in a suit and tux shop in New York in the 70s, and John Lennon came in to buy a suit. Lennon was fitted for a suit, and Henry’s plan was to sew a demo tape into the inside jacket pocket. He ultimately decided against it, and was happy to have met Lennon a handful of times.
It was in my directed study with him that I learned the most from him as he helped me pick apart my songs and shape my portfolio into something I could confidently bring with me into the industry. The last time I ever saw him, he shook my hand and told me he thought I had what it took to make it as a writer, and he wished me luck. I walked out of the room forever grateful for everything I learned from him, and I will always remember his gritty humor and sincerity. Henry was the real deal, and he will be missed.
Did you study or work with Henry? Share your own memories in the comments.