Jersey Jams Fund

The Integrity And Heart Of The State's Top Musicians

September 11 was a day that left the world in shock. As many in our area lost their family and friends to this unthinkable terrorist attack, those close to them struggled to communicate. As we approach the first anniversary of the September 11 attack, the struggle still continues.

To help reach some with music, journalist Bob Makin, who recently received a 2002 Asbury Music Awards nomination for his work with the "Courier News", and a host of local musicians and music and non-music related businesses have formed a coalition to fight the pure evil of terrorism with songs that reflect the integrity and heart of the state's top musicians.

The Jersey Jams Fund's primary focus has been the release of a compact disc entitled "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares: A Charitable Tribute to the New Jersey Families of September 11", and many related live shows that have followed. Co-founder Makin has donated countless hours to seeing this project through by distributing flyers, selling CDs and spreading the word. He's also gotten sponsors to donate needed funds and either planned or found those who have helped put together the project. All of this has been done to provide financial, emotional and spiritual support for the families directly affected.

Musicians who were asked about their reasoning behind participating in "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares", besides their obvious empathy for the cause itself, all cited Makin's involvement. "Bob Makin was involved, so I joined the project" was a common refrain. That support speaks volumes about his past efforts, as he continues to bring this one to life.

Putting these artists all on one compact disc provides listeners a chance to hear the feelings of these artists, an alternative to the ones they experienced of politicians and journalists when the tragedy took place. It's a chance for artists who give raw, unbridled energy to their fans on stage, not holding back how they felt, sharing their vulnerabilities and fighting to gain strength after September 11.

For Glen Burtnik, a former member of the legendary Stone Pony house band, Cats on a Smooth Surface and a current member of Styx, his contribution to the CD was one that needed care and sensitivity to create. "What happened was, I was about to open for Nils Lofgren at The Stone Pony and it was my first appearance since September 11 and I felt kind of funny," said Burtnik. "I didn't know how to approach the audience. It's hard to get up in front of an audience and ask how everyone is feeling in the shadow of that tragedy."

For Burtnik, writing a song after September 11 was just as tough. "It's hard to write an effective song about, for instance, the Holocaust," he said. "To write a song about a tragedy is no easy trick."

You have to be real careful when writing songs about any tragic event, said Burtnik. He explained that he's heard many mediocre songs written about September 11.

Burtnik eventually penned "Window of the World," track number four on the CD, a metaphor for how life was before and after the tragedy. "It was really about the relation between a man and a woman from the perspective of after something really monolithic happened in a relationship," he explained.

The song was far from a spontaneous creation. "I mulled over it for a long time," said Burtnik. "I didn't want it to be the first words out of my mouth. I wanted it to be kind of a process." The approach was carefully thought out and the songwriting process eventually became easier.

For John Eddie, who contributed his song "American Thing" to the project, music was not necessarily a way to vent his emotions, but a way to try and get back into his normal routine. "I can't say that playing music has helped me deal with my feelings about what happened on September 11," he said. "It's what I do for a living, so of course getting back to work is a way of trying to pretend things are getting back to normal. But it was my friends and family who helped me and made me realize how lucky I am to still have them in my life."

Eddie said he felt a terrible sadness when he was in San Francisco for a gig and his manager called him and told him to turn on the television.

Andy Bernstein, vocalist for the VooDUDES, said the foundation gave his group a chance to show the terrorists what freedom is about. "The VooDUDES members, despite having widely different political views, agree that freedom of expression, as presented in projects like "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares" is exactly what fundamentalists are trying to rub out. To continue to play, record and be part of Jersey Jams is our small way of striking back." A popular rock act for over a decade, the VooDUDES contributed their song "Master's Ship" to "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares".

After the incident, many, including then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other political leaders, have expressed that moving forward is a way of striking back. "Once, in the wake of some bombings in London, I asked my British friends how they could ever leave their homes," said Bernstein. "They said that to not live normally is to let the other side win. That pretty much expresses how we feel."

Bernstein makes the point that events like these are effective, but nothing can make up for the loss felt by these families. "We don't kid ourselves that any amount of money or services will ever make up for the loss of their loved ones," he said. "Our participation lets those folks who've lost someone know that they are not alone, that the community cares about their loss. It's a modern-day version of a barn raising that's so important in a fast-paced society where it's easy to put things on hold."

Danny White, who this joins many other artists at the "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares" Summer Arts Carnival at the Stone Pony on Sunday, July 21, says the need to help we experienced last September can't die down. "It has to start somewhere," he said. "In this case, it was such a national tragedy that it started at the top with high-profile people. Like anything, though, over time people can forget and think we gave when it happened. But even though the media push has slowed and it's been almost a year, some folks still need help and that's where local communities have to stay involved. It's imperative."

Additional information on the Jersey Jams Fund, the "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares" CD, and other shows and events, visit www.jerseyjamsfund.org.

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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