Dan Hill – “Sometimes When We Touch”

Introduction to Dan Hill

Dan Hill is a Canadian singer-songwriter most famous for his 1977 ballad “Sometimes When We Touch” and 1987’s “Can’t We Try” (a duet with singer Vonda Sheppard). In 1977, one of his songs reached across the border and became a massive hit over there – “Sometimes When We Touch” which rose to the US Top 10 charts. However, he was unable to keep up with the success of his first single. His last charting single was “Let The Song Last Forever”, a Hot 100 item. Although his songs were consistent in the Canadian charts, Hill spent a decade without cracking into the US Billboard rankings. In 1987 he reappeared on the Top 10 with “Can’t We Try,” a duet with Vonda Shepard, and since then Hill has appeared a few times on the Billboard’s adult contemporary charts.

Early life

Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Hill was born Daniel Grafton Hill IV in Toronto, Ontario on June 3, 1954. Hill has a Negro blood — his father was the social scientist, human rights advocate and black Canadian historian Daniel G. Hill. He also has a brother, renowned author Lawrence Hill (Black Berry, The Book of Negroes). Dan Hill’s mother, social activist Donna Hill, is white.

You could say Dan Hill was unabashedly sentimental; one of his earliest idols was Frank Sinatra. When he was in his teens, he quit school and worked as a songwriter for RCA Records Canada. He worked day and night — as a local government worker and singer at the Riverboat –while continuing to pursue his dreams of making it in showbusiness.

Most famous hit single “Sometimes When We Touch”

In 1975 he cut his first eponymous album, whose “You Make Me Want To Be” became a hit in his native land.

In 1977 Hill released his second album Longer Fuse whose leadoff single, the mushy and ultra-emotional “Sometimes When We Touch” became a hit across the border. It landed on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking there at #3. It also reached #10 on the adult contemporary singles chart and #13 on the UK singles chart — making it Hill’s most successful recording yet. The song was written by Hill and Barry Mann.

“Sometimes When We Touch,” because of its highly sentimental lyrics and rather dramatic delivery, has often landed on the “worst songs” list. There have been many artists who covered it, including Tina Turner, Bonnie Tyler, Barry Manilow, Donny Osmond, Englebert Humperdinck and even Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao who duetted this with Hill himself.

“Can’t We Try”

After “Sometimes When We Touch,” Hill recorded lesser-known singles such as “All I See Is Your Face” and “Let the Song Last Forever,” that were otherwise big hits on the US adult contemporary market.

Hill seemed to have vanihsed from the scene until he mounted a comeback in 1987, releasing yet another emotionally-charged song “Can’t We Try.” It was written together by himself and his lawyer wife Beverly Chapin-Hill.

“Can’t We Try” was recorded as a duet between Hill and then-little known singer/musician Vonda Shepard (before she became famous on the hit TV comedyAlly McBeal). Released on Columbia label, “Can’t We Try” brought Dan Hill to the pop chart once again, peaking at #6. It also peaked at #2 on the adult contemporary singles chart.

Later career

Hill (together with Keith Stegall) was also responsible for the 1998 country hit “I Do (Cherish You)” performed by Mark Willis – a year later the song would then be famously re-interpreted by the boy band 98 Degrees who helped climb the song into the Top 20 pop singles charts.

Since then Dan Hill has charted a few times, mostly on Billboard’s adult contemporary top ten, with singles such as “Never Thought (That I Could Love)” and “Unborn Heart.” Hill continues to record and perform up to this day, mostly in his native Canada. In later years Hill had often performed in a duo with his good friend, the late writer and musician Paul Quarrington.