We lift our voices to lift others

The Story Behind ‘Huggable Love’

Huggable Love,” the 16th and final track on the charity CD, “Bright Lights on Broad Street” not only features teenaged musicians with diverse influences, but a singer who has battled chronic and life-threatening ailments to lift others with her voice.


Keyboardist Andrew D’Alba 16, lead guitarist Chris DeCarolis 15, bass guitarist Aaron Manzo 16 and drummer Victor Montanaro 15, were brought together by singer-songwriter Darren Johnson to form The Lords of Darrenland (L.O.D), and recorded the track in August at Shorefire Studios in Long Branch with Taste This’ vocalist, Terry Bakal.


“Music and lyrics have played a big role in healing and overcoming things,” says Bakal, who was diagnosed in 2002 with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. She endured 7 months of chemotherapy due to heart complications, and a life-threatening blood clot. Although radiation therapy eventually cured her of the lymphoma, in 2005 she was diagnosed with leukemia, a blood cancer that develops in bone marrow, to which she is currently treating through prescription medication.


Terry Bakal

Terry Bakal, laying down vocals for ‘Huggable Love’


“I met Terry at Live Rock and Roll Karaoke at The Downtown in Red Bank, and really connected with her sense of fun.”  Johnson says about the charismatic Bakal. “I had no idea what she had gone through until months later at a charity benefit concert for a woman with terminal brain cancer, when she opened up a bit about her story.”


Johnson said he decided then and there that if he was going sing anything on The Downtown All-Stars of Red Bank’s charity CD, he was going to sing a duet with Bakal, who majored in classic vocals at Broward Community College in FL, and has appeared in commercials and small movie roles.

“There was this song I had messed around with one time with a guitarist from my old band Omega Train about 10 years ago,” Johnson remembers. He said Ken Buniewski was playing some chords on the piano in his studio and started a little stream of consciousness, ad-lib melodies and hooks.  “I didn’t really have verses…just a basic chorus and melody line. We never fiddled around with it again, or recorded anything, but I remembered the basic melody and the hook. “ A decade later, Johnson fleshed out the lyrics, changed to the chorus to “Huggable Love”, and went out recruiting musicians for the project.


D’Alba is a junior at Howell High School, and performed in the bands Rally Cap and Downtown Hour.  He’s in the music and production part of the Entertainment Technology part of FPAC and takes piano lessons.  Manalapan High School sophomore DeCarolis is lead guitarist for Crimson Sky and various acoustic projects.  The axe-slinger is a member of Rockit at the Count Basie Theater and studies jazz theory with BJ Willis.  A grunge-honed bassist, Manzo is a junior and studies music theory at Colts Neck High School, and has performed with the following bands: MPA, Rally Cap, Ugly Character, Turning Keys, occasionally with Moroccan Sheepherders.  Heavy metal aficionado Montanaro is a 10th grader at Communications High School.  A drummer for Skyeless Nights in the program Joe Salk’s Kids Who Rock, he’s also taking lessons with Dean Pyzik at Big Beat Studio, and is in various programs at the Lake House Music Academy in Asbury Park.  He also sat in with Manzo for some sessions with the band TBA.


The "Lords of Darrenland" - (L-R) Terry Bakal, Darren Johnson, Aaron Manzo, Chris DeCarolis, Andrew D'Alba.  Front: Victor Montanaro

The “Lords of Darrenland” – (L-R) Terry Bakal, Darren Johnson, Aaron Manzo, Chris DeCarolis, Andrew D’Alba. Front: Victor Montanaro


“I didn’t have to do very much,” says Johnson. “I brought in the lyrics and basic melody, and these guys ran with it and made it their own. I pretty much just got out of their way.”

Net proceeds of CD sales and downloads will benefit “Little Kids Rock,” a national non-profit organization that provides free instruments and curriculum designed to foster the skills kids need to lead creative, purposeful lives, so having young people record the song was an “absolute no-brainer.”

So check out ‘Huggable Love’ on YouTube!  The video shows the making of the recording and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the CD!


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