First, before reading, listen to this song! Also the video may need a ***TRIGGER WARNING***, just to be safe!
Now, want to know where it came from??? I inteviewed Darla Zuhdi, who brought her song, “To All the Gabbys in the World” to my attention. Wow! It’s amazing! Go listen again!
Laura: Please tell a little about yourself, such as where you are from, your likes and dislikes, and some professional background.
Darla: What do I like? I love God. I love to write. I love to eat great food! Too much! I love my family, I love cats (discussed more below) and all animals, and I love a challenge…
I grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and moved to Oklahoma City when I was 18. I met my husband at 19 and was married shortly after. I have been married for 39 wonderful years and I am very thankful for that. I live across the street from my incredible (and often lippy) 85 year old mother.
In the 1980s, my husband Bill and I promoted concerts nationally with some very famous people, including our producing Frank Sinatra in multiple concerts in the United States. My husband is also a fantastic trial lawyer and I have worked for him throughout my marriage doing legal research, writing, and assisting him in trials. It was while working for him as a legal research assistant that I discovered I LOVE to write. I also love children and cats, so during this time, I started writing children’s books and wrote a series called the Cat Detectives. I have four books published in that series, including one that is recommended by The Humane Society of the United States (both Bill and I love helping homeless animals). I would do book signings a lot and traveled throughout the US doing those signings. I also often wrote poetry, or so I thought, until I started putting music to the poetry and lo and behold, I became a songwriter. I had always sung but only in school, at church, weddings, or funerals. I sang with my mother, and with my mother and sister sometimes, but never on a grand scale like what happened later in my life.
When I was 42 (I am now almost 60 – ugh!), I got my start as a professional in the music business by opening in concert for Willie Nelson before a crowd of 10,000. During my set, I sang one of my original country songs “Why’d You Go.” It was mentally challenging to perform in front of that many people with virtually no experience but I knew I couldn’t afford to be nervous or it would affect my voice. I had to force myself not to be afraid. And I guess I wasn’t. However, that said, I learned this – I will NEVER dance around on stage again like I did while I was singing Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” Wow. What a sight. I hope to never see that video again!
Not long after, I opened for Wayne Newton in concert. During this time, I wrote more and more songs and devoted more and more time to music, rather than writing the books. I could tell I had to make a choice because of the time constraints involved, so I chose to pursue my singer/songwriter career. A couple of years later, I was starring in nationally released public television music specials – three to be exact. ‘Darla Z’s Christmas ‘Round the World’ was my favorite TV show because I co-starred and wrote two songs with the legendary Bob Rozario, who was also my pianist and music director. Bob has now gone to Heaven but he taught me so much about music and how to perform, that I will always be so very thankful to him for that. I did most of the arrangements for ‘Darla Z’s Love Songs ‘Round the World’ and that was very cool because I could be creative musically. In all my TV specials, I sang my original songs and love all of them.
I had been floating through life working with my supportive husband, writing, singing and performing in Vegas and other places when it worked out, while at the same time being unaware of the horrible epidemic of domestic violence, which I have now come to understand exists globally, on a very large scale. So it has become my mission to help those who are living that horrible situation realize there is another life they can have, a glorious life, one without pain and tears, one with peace and one where they have self-worth.
Laura: What prompted you to write and sing this song? Take us through it from start to finish.
Darla: Of course, from the news and movies, I knew about domestic violence. I’d seen the Farrah Faucet movie ‘The Burning Bed’ and I knew some women were living that nightmare. But to the extent that I now realize, no, I didn’t know it was so vast. When Gabby Petito’s story came out in the news and the nationwide search began for her, I know everyone who saw her story was impacted. This included my husband and me. She was such a beautiful, free spirit, and you could tell just from her face she had a kind soul. After the search revealed Gabby had been murdered by her monstrous boyfriend, my husband and I felt so sorry for her, her family, and her friends. Meanwhile, a woman I knew but didn’t know well, was married and lived in the same city as me. I knew she’d had a history of being with abusive men. I also knew her new husband had hit her the night before they got married. Before she married him, my mother and I both told her not to marry him, but she did it anyway, because he had promised her he’d never hit her again. Well, one night early in the morning, I received a text message from her that her husband had hurt her “bad” and she was on her way to the emergency room. My husband and I decided to help her, so we did.
At first, as I got to be around her, I would watch her lower her eyes when she looked at men and call them “sir”, which I couldn’t believe. I gently told her (and sometimes not so gently) that she shouldn’t do that, she shouldn’t cower, she should respect herself more. I told her she was strong. We would march around my living room singing Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. But given our age and stamina levels, we’d periodically have to stop to take breaths before we’d start marching again – good thing the song is only about four minutes long! I’d also play for her Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” Music is a powerful healer.
I mentioned my husband is supportive. For the last year, and almost on a daily basis, he kept telling me to write another song. I kept telling him I was too busy (working for him), and I kept putting it off. Then one day, after so many months of living my friend’s nightmarish legal situation, which had a very successful outcome for her, and watching her as she got stronger and happier, it hit me. I wanted to write a song for Gabby, for my friend, for my neighbor, for the many women I knew, and for those I didn’t know, for all the women throughout the world who were being domestically abused to encourage them and motivate them to leave, to find a better life, to be strong. So I wrote “To All the Gabby’s in the World.” Lou Pomanti, the famed arranger and producer of songs on Michael Buble’s Grammy award winning albums, was my arranger and producer and he did a terrific job. My vocals were recorded at UNLV in Las Vegas with Lou helping me be the best I can be, along with my long time engineer, producer and friend, Chuck Foley.
Laura: What do you hope this song accomplishes?
Darla: Like I said, I want to motivate women to leave their abusive situations and start a new life. If they have kids, it’s even more important. If they are alone and have nowhere to go, to know there are “angels” out there who would love to help them. That there are organizations, and people – like you, Laura – who will give them the knowledge of how to survive, how to be strong, how to be happy, and how to live a better life without their disgusting, evil and cowardly abuser.
Laura: Do you find music healing? How so?
Darla: Music is a powerful healer! Music has always helped me in life. When writing a song, it helps me say what I want to say about love, loss of loved ones, and, in the case of “To All the Gabby’s in the World”, to write about courage and strength. It moves me as I’m writing, often to tears. I don’t know how many times this song has made me cry as I think about the women who are living in these abusive situations. And as I see the eagle flying in the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkworAjntAI), which was beautifully directed by Rick Walker, and hear the words sung “soar on wings like eagles,” I am thankful that these women will hopefully be motivated and learn they have the strength to leave and survive and their lives will be better. In the video, the victim/actress Allison Gregory and the “viper” Nicholas Simon were super in playing their parts, which really helped me and my talented team to get the message of hope out to the people who need it most.
Laura: How can people get in contact with you and/or follow you on social media?
Darla: Thank you for asking. But I’m warning you, I’m old school and can just barely navigate through FaceBook. My official FaceBook page is https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDarlaZ. My YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/@DarlaZ. On the YouTube channel, you’ll see videos of some of my original songs, an excerpt of the Christmas show, along with several singing keto friendly videos. My website is www.darlaz.com and contact information is on my website.