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Zach Sobiech, 18: A farewell song heard ‘round the world

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2013 - 11:24 AM

In a life cut short by cancer, he exemplified grace and selflessness beyond his years, reflected in his song “Clouds,” which became a worldwide sensation.


Zach Sobiech

Photo: J. Dunn Photography,

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It’s still got a powerful life of its own, rippling like a mighty wave now in France, in Belgium, across Europe to Germany and on to Switzerland.

Among the millions of people who have come to know Zach Sobiech’s song “Clouds,” his lifelong friend and bandmate, Sammy Brown, was the first. At the encouragement of their moms, the pair had started writing and recording their music. “Zach said ‘Hey, I just wrote this,’ sort of like it was nothing,” then left the room, Brown said. The words were simple, but moving and beautiful, deep from the heart of a dying friend trying to articulate a farewell to all he held dear. “I just started to cry,” she said.

Sobiech’s musical legacy lives on in money raised to fight the bone cancer that took his life. Sales of “Clouds” are expected to top $1 million, funding two major University of Minnesota research projects.

Last month, Brown released a single inspired by their friendship, “How to Go to Confession,” that also will raise money for cancer research. An album from their band, A Firm Handshake, is coming out in the spring.

“It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that he’s gone,” said Brown, who was introduced to Zach on a picnic blanket as a 1-year-old. They went through elementary and high school together, forging a close familial bond.

Brown began college at St. Olaf last fall. Zach remains a powerful presence in her life, even as grief mingles with happy memories.

“There’s no way of escaping it,” she said. “Which is good, because I don’t want to.”

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