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Justin Jarrell's Total Eclipse Of The Heart

For singers, the opportunity to perform or record a new version of an old song can carry a lot of meaning. Sometimes, it’s about paying tribute to a particularly influential artist or song. Other times, it’s about recalling a time in their own lives where a piece of art hit close to home. And sometimes, the song is just such a banger that the singer can’t help themselves.

Sarah Vanderpool sings with Justin Jarrell on his version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
Justin Jarrell Management
Sarah Vanderpool sings with Justin Jarrell on his version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

For Justin Jarrell of Des Moines, all three come together on his version of the Bonnie Tyler classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The song was written by Jim Steinman, also known for his collaborations with Meatloaf and Air Supply. The song spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1983.

Jarrell first heard the song when he was nine years old. “I was in 4th grade and we had a high school group come to our class and did a skit about ‘just say no’ to drugs, and they used ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart' in their skit,” said Jarrell. “I heard this song and was immediately mesmerized. It had dramatic music, and soaring, captivating vocals.”

The song features additional vocals by Jarrell’s longtime friend Sarah Vanderpool, who also performs as a member of The Well Pennies. “She loves to tell the story of me at the age of 9 carrying around a boombox at church, asking people if they’ve heard the song,” said Jarrell with a laugh. “I was a nerd…still am.”

For Jarrell, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was also an expression of all the things he was feeling when he heard it for the first time. “Looking back, I think it was a combination of things occurring in my life at that time, which is why the song stuck,” said Jarrell. “Growing up very poor, being raised by a single mom who worked at a church, very religious family, dad who abandoned us, being gay, and feeling trapped as well as the feelings of always overlooked and lonely. I think it was actually somewhat of a cry for help and needing a human connection.”

Justin Jarrell’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is streaming on all major platforms, and we’ll be debuting the single for radio on IPR’s Studio One All Access this weekend.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host