Ask any Scrubs fan what their favorite episode is, and at least 6 out of 10 will tell you that it’s “My Screw-Up,” the 14th episode of the third season. It’s more popularly known as the Brendan Fraser episode, the one where Dr. Cox spends the episode preparing for his son’s first birthday party with his best friend, Ben, until the Sixth Sense twist in the end reveals that Ben is dead and, instead of a birthday party, they’re attending Ben’s funeral. For many of us, it may be the first episode of a sitcom that elicited actual tears, and the memory of it lingers, sixteen years later.
Part of what made that episode so successful was the song, “Winter” by Joshua Radin, that played over the funeral reveal. The song registered so immediately with so many people that NBC’s website crashed after the episode aired because so many viewers were trying to find out who performed the song and where they could find more of his material. What they soon have discovered, however, was that there was no more material. “Winter” was Joshua Radin’s first song. Ever. He had no album. He had no collection of songs. He had no manager or record contract. All he had was a best friend who happened to be the star of Scrubs,” and that relationship would not only spark a music career but propel it.
Joshua Radin recently appeared on the Scrubs rewatch podcast, “Fake Doctors, Real Friends,” to talk about the origins of that song, his career, and that brilliant episode of television. As Radin tells it, he was pushing 30 years old and struggling as a screenwriter, writing formulaic rom-coms that nobody would buy.
“I had never played music in my whole life,” Radin said on the podcast. “I had never grown up playing an instrument or taking lessons or anything like that.” He began to rethink his career, recognizing that he was writing screenplays to get them sold rather than writing them from the heart, or writing what he knows or was passionate about. “So I started playing guitar. I learned a few chords. I learned a few covers. And then I knew enough chords on the guitar after learning a couple of [Bob] Dylan songs” that he decided to write his own song.
“Winter” was the first song he wrote. And then Radin’s best friend, Zach Braff, came over to his apartment, saw a guitar in the corner, and — not realizing that Radin could play — asked him to play a song. Radin was reluctant to do so, and he was so nervous about it that he made Braff turn around while he played. “I remember,” Braff said on the podcast. “You said, ‘Don’t look at me! Don’t you look at me!'”
“I remember vividly,” Radin said. “I played this song, ‘Winter,’ and [Braff] turned around and [his] eyes were watery. It affected [him], and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the first thing I’ve written where I’d ever seen that kind of response from anyone other than my Mom or Dad. Coming from a dear friend, it was really cool.”
Braff, in fact, encouraged Radin to make a demo and send it to Bill [Lawrence] and Christa [Miller], who made a lot of the song choices for Scrubs. It was an interesting time for music, as well. It was before the streaming era. The rights to recognizable songs were often exorbitant, so the best songs were those that were unknown, or from artists that hadn’t been discovered yet. “It was the gold rush for people like me,” Radin said.
Radin made a demo with a friend by playing it live and then laying a harmony track over it. He sent the track to Braff, who forwarded it to Lawrence, and within two or three weeks, he’d already received a call. “Hey, that song works perfectly in this episode,” Lawrence told him. “Do you mind if we use it?”
“It was the first song he’d ever written,” Braff said, “that was recorded with a guitar and a mic with Pro Tools.”
The recording that’s heard in the show was recorded in the bedroom of Radin’s friend. “It was as basic as it can get.”
The song was so big, on what would ultimately become the most popular episode of “Scrubs,” that Radin decided to move to Los Angeles and become a musician. It was a lucrative career change. In addition to recording seven albums, so far, Radin has had his songs appear in 7 other episodes of “Scrubs,” in many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and dozens of other television shows. He’s even become a favorite musical guest on “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” And it was all because Zach Braff convinced him to play a song for him one day in his apartment.
Source: Fake Doctors, Real Friends