The incidents of September 11 left the United States in need of healing from the cold numbness left upon it. Many didn’t know where to turn from this tragedy and terror they had never encountered before.
It took weeks for many people to feel any sense of normalcy. Some, particularly the families who lost loved ones, still haven’t reached this point.
Vying for any type of relief they could grasp, journalist Bob Makin, record label owner Matt Angus (Black Potatoe Records in Clinton, NJ), publicist Randy Alexander (Randex Communications in Marlton,
NJ) and record producer Seth Alexander (S.A.R. studios in Scotch Plains, NJ) turned to music. Thus began their own healing process. President George Bush’s address to the nation inspired Makin to write,
even though he is not a supporter of the President's politics. “I don’t ever really try to listen to George Bush,” said Makin. “This particular day, the whole country was tuned into what he had to say.”
He told Angus of his new song, only to find that Angus had already written a couple of his own. Alexander then wrote two.
Their work has turned into a large chain of local musicians and businesses joining together in their support of fighting terrorism with their own charity, The Jersey Jams Fund.
The group’s first task was to create a compact disc. The CD, Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares: A Charitable Tribute to the New Jersey Families of September 11, features local artists emotionally baring
their sensitivity, fears, and love of freedom. “No matter what your viewpoint is, there’s something on that CD that everyone can relate to," said Makin. "There’s something for everyone on the CD.”
Not only are the artists, ranging from former P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell to melodic rocker Glen Burtnik, diverse in themselves, the album is a vast display of thoughts, emotions and values that
can help music fans revive themselves. In putting this idea into effect, each of the aforementioned co-founders took on a specific role; Makin was in charge of contacting the talent. “When Matt suggested
we do a compilation, it was decided that I would reach out to many of the artists, because I knew so many of them,” said Makin. “I started reaching out to people.”
And people started reaching back. Not just musicians. Comcast Cable, for one, donated money so New Jersey family members affected by the tragedy could each receive a copy of the CD. Bergen County’s United
Way handled the postage costs. Disc Makers pressed the first 2,000 copies of Jersey Jams for free. Madison Marketing donated fliers and WDHA radio went around in their tour van distributing discs
throughout the state. “I get e-mails on a weekly basis from somebody else who wants to help out,” said Makin.
Eight of the CD’s 15 tracks were written specifically about September 11. Others found their own previously written songs that still conveyed a meaning with pertinence to the tragedy. John Eddie used
“American Thing,” a down-to-earth track that cuts right though the heart of our country. Not about the decadent capitalists we may be portrayed as in the Middle East, more about the simple journey of an
average American. Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s “Pressing My Way” is an emotionally-naked representation of a man’s struggle to get back up when the situation around him has got him down.
“With this project, it’s all about caring and giving,” said Makin. “There’s no egos involved.”
Each musician and songwriter taking part, whether using newly-recorded or pre-recorded material, gave some of their most poignant music to the record. It’s musicians opening up and exposing their most
vulnerable state, giving the listener the assurance that it’s ok to open up and express themselves in return. Everyone has felt the desire to give back and these musicians found their best avenue of communication
in their music.
“The best thing about this project is how the entire New Jersey music scene has come together,” said Makin. “It’s just unbelievable. I mean 50 bands [first involved], 25 more, have come to us and said,
‘we want to be part of this.’
The fund has met its initial goal when the mission began, raising $15,000. "There’s a lot of cynicism against fundraising efforts that raise money for people affected by September 11,” said Makin. “We
will be able to get the money to the families very efficiently. It’s not held up.”
Makin struggled for his own understanding, as he thought of he how he would explain this to his children, who were left with nightmares after September 11th. “I just want to alleviate the nightmares,”
he said. “Music alleviates the nightmares.” After next September 11, all funds raised by Jersey Jams will go into a music scholarship fund set up for children directly affected by the terrorist attacks.
Not only children can be helped from these efforts. “It’s really amazing how powerful music can be,” said Makin. “Music is such a universal language that everyone can understand at some level.”
The snowballing of support from people looking to reach out has left the organizers stunned. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” said Makin. “We had no idea that so many people were
feeling the same way.” The tragedy not only brought this charity into existence, but bands around the state have played multiple shows to raise money. “Say what you want about Jersey,” said Makin. “But
it’s as down-to-earth as it can get when people are in trouble.”
The group plans to release other CD’s. Those wishing to make submissions can do so by sending them to: Jersey Jams Fund, 6 Myrtle Road, East Brunswick, NJ 08816.
The effort began with a CD, but won't end there. A growing list of live shows has been assembled. Chorus and Verse will continue to post updated dates in our “news and other dirt from around the scene.”
More information about Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares can be found on their website, at www.jerseyjamsfund.org.