Sometimes a painfully sad story can bring inspiration and joy to others, even in a bittersweet and unexpected form.
In the case of Vail Cerullo, Hill Class of 2009, his tragic death in 2012 in a motorcycle accident led to the creation of a song that is Number One on the Billboard charts
. The song “See You Again” by Charlie Puth – who was Vail’s close friend while they both were students at Berklee College of Music, Boston – is the theme song for the Fast and Furious 7
movie which was released over Easter weekend (2015). Puth, the now-famous musician, also is the brother of Stephen Puth, Hill Class of 2012.
Puth has performed and been interviewed about the song for numerous venues, from NPR to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
On Tuesday, May 12, 2015, NBC-10 news in Philadelphia visited Hill’s campus to interview Vail’s father, Bill, about the remarkable, touching “story behind the story” of this incredibly popular song about never-ending friendship, a prophecy, and about the story's Hill School connections. Read the story here.
Vail’s brother, Jake, is a current Hill School fifth former – and a good friend of the son of NBC-10 producer Kathie McDermott, who pitched this complex story to her editors and conducted interviews at The Hill’s Center For The Arts.
The song was written at the request of producers of the Fast and Furious movies, who asked Puth to compose a tribute to the actor Paul Walker of the immensely popular film series. Fast and Furious 7 stars Walker, who died in a car crash in 2013 after the film was shot. The song also includes verses that are rapped by Wiz Khalifa; the music video features both Puth and Khalifa. There also is a piano-only version of the song on You Tube.
However, Charlie Puth told the Cerullos as well as others including NPR
that he really wrote the story with his good friend, Vail, in mind.
Bill Cerullo, of Elverson, Pa., told his friend and NBC-10 producer McDermott that he remains in close contact with Charlie Puth. Bill said Vail – who discovered singing while a Hill student and member of the Hilltones – once told him that “music fills my soul.”
During the interview, Bill tells an eerie story that was shared by Charlie about how he and Vail were walking across a bridge in Boston a few months before Vail’s accident. Vail turned to Charlie and said, “Some day you are going to write a Number 1 hit song.”
With tears in his eyes, Bill said that Vail’s accident occurred on that same bridge and furthermore, as Charlie told Bill, at the same spot where Vail had predicted his friend’s future musical success. Charlie was determined to honor his friend Vail by writing a song in his honor – and when he was hired to write the tribute for Paul Walker and the Fast and Furious film, he knew his friendship with Vail would provide the passion for the piece.
Bill said his favorite lyrics in the song are “Hold every memory as you go/And every road you take/Will always lead you home.”
Bill had suggested to McDermott that the NBC-10 interview take place at The Hill School -- home to his beloved son for four years and the place where Vail found and nurtured his love for music.
Coincidentally, in recent weeks The Hill installed a gorgeous art quilt sewn by Vail’s stepmother, Libby Cerullo, as a donation to The Hill in memory of Vail. The 94-inch by 57-inch quilt, created in blue hues that evoke memories of Vail and his girlfriend sitting by a reflective pool, now hangs in the Center For The Arts lobby right outside the auditorium where Vail loved to perform. The lobby setting overlooks the Dell and a picnic table that bears a plaque remembering Vail.
“Vail would be very, very proud for Charlie,” Bill said, noting that Charlie said he wrote the song in 10 minutes. The song that flowed so beautifully from Vail’s friend is, Bill said, “the greatest gift Charlie could give us.”