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Hey There, Delilah!

updated 07/23/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/2007 01:00AM

It's a simple premise—a guy, his guitar and an unrequited love for a girl who lives many miles away—and it's made "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's the summer's top love song. But sweeter still is the story behind the catchy ballad. Five years ago T's frontman Tom Higgenson, 28, met Delilah DiCrescenzo, 24, through a mutual pal in their native Chicago. "Something about her really drove me crazy," Higgenson recalls. "So I said, 'I have a song for you,' trying to be smooth. That was a big lie." They exchanged instant messages, and she'd ask about her song when they'd chat online. "In my wildest thoughts," she says, "I didn't believe he'd actually go through with it." After all, DiCrescenzo, an All-American track star studying at Columbia University in New York City, already had a boyfriend and only saw Higgenson on one other (nondate) occasion before he wrote the song—at a Plain White T's show in Manhattan in 2003. "He didn't have enough material!" she jokes. But Higgenson did have two lines he loved ("What's it like in New York City? ... 'Cause tonight you look so pretty"), and with DiCrescenzo's prodding, he decided to fill in the blanks. Says Higgenson: "For the rest of it, I had to imagine, If I was with this girl, what would I want to say?"

Today, the world knows exactly what he'd say, and the song (re-released as a bonus track in February on their album Every Second Counts) has climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on iTunes. DiCrescenzo loves hearing it "all the time, on every single station." Except at the gym. "It's not motivating for pumping iron," says DiCrescenzo, who prefers silence while logging up to 70 miles a week training for the steeplechase at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Just don't expect her to carry a torch for Higgenson. "That song is the most romantic gesture someone has ever done for me," she says. "But I don't feel like he's in love with me. I'm representative of a long-distance relationship. We'll just remain friends." Hey, Delilah? You're right. "We've had years for anything to happen," says Higgenson, who insists he's moved on. "Now if she wants to be with me all of a sudden, that's cheesy. She had her chance!"

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