Henry Gaffney, Songwriting Faculty: 1949–2010

A successful songwriter, Gaffney brought his passion for music and teaching to Berklee.
June 2, 2010

Henry Gaffney, a member of the Songwriting Department, died on May 23 of lung cancer. He was 61 years old.

Gaffney began teaching at Berklee in 1995 after three decades of success in the songwriting and recording industries. Rolling Stone called one of his early solo albums, On Again Off Again, "touched by brilliance." Gaffney went on to become a staff songwriter at Koppelman/Bandier Publishing, where he wrote tunes for Roberta Flack, the Four Tops, Judy Collins, Glen Campbell, and other stars. He contributed many songs to the television show Fame and composed and arranged the score for the critically acclaimed film Sidewalk Stories, which won the 1988 Prix du Public award at the Cannes Film Festival.

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At Berklee, Gaffney taught lyric writing and demo production, and coached individual students, among other activities. Despite his illness, he managed to attend a Paul Simon clinic at the college in December.

Gaffney was also an adjunct faculty member at New York University in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music's Songwriting Department.

"Henry's approach to teaching was markedly personal and was very effective with a great many students," Berklee president Roger H. Brown wrote to Berklee faculty and staff. "He was a source of inspiration and creativity, a subject that was always highlighted in his teaching."

Gaffney once spoke about his passion for music and teaching in an interview with Berklee communications staff: "Songs play a magical role in our lives. They travel with us, marking important events and emotions, and connecting us to others by offering a social identity. Songwriting is doubly magical. It is an opportunity to express the inexpressible and, with luck, touch others in ineffable ways. Teaching songwriting is exponentially magical and a source of much joy for me."

The Berklee Writing Division is planning an event to honor Gaffney's life and work.