Light of Day

An Interview With Bob Benjamin

In a scene known for supporting charities and worthwhile causes, Light of Day stands out as one of the most personal and successful.

Several years ago, Bob Benjamin, a music promoter and the manager of such artists as Joe Grushecky and Joe D'Urso, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD), a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, affecting between one and one-and-a-half million Americans, including such well-know figures as Muhammad Ali, Janet Reno and Michael J. Fox.

Soon after his diagnosis, Benjamin became involved with the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF), a national, non-profit organization founded in 1957 to support and promote the highest-quality research into the treatment and cure of PD.

In 1998, a special benefit show, headlined by Bobby Bandiera, was held in Red Bank, New Jersey, to celebrate Benjamin's birthday, November 3, and raise money for the PDF. The shows continue to feature musicians who have worked with Benjamin throughout his career, all giving of their time and talent to raise money for this new cause they were championing.

Two years later, the event was officially christened "Light of Day", a homage to the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name, whose lyric "we're just around the corner to the light of day" has become an inspiration and a battle cry for everyone involved with the effort.

Chorus and Verse spoke with Benjamin to discuss the PDF, this year's sold-out Light of Day shows at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and the new CD "Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen," which was released on September 2. Proceeds from the sale of the CD will benefit the PDF, as well as the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, which was established in 1993 after the death of Springsteen's co-manager Barbara Carr's daughter to raise money for the fight against rare sarcoma cancer tumors.

The idea for "Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen," said Benjamin, started last fall with Salvadore Trepat, publisher of the Spanish Springsteen fan magazine "Point Blank," who approached Benjamin about the project. "He had about a dozen or so artists who wanted to do tracks for him, and asked me if I wanted to work with him on it," explained Benjamin.

"The artists had all the input," into what songs they would perform on the album," said Benjamin. "If a song was taken already, they had to pick another one." Beyond that, they were given full control over what they did with it. Thirty of the tracks were recorded specifically for the tribute album, and the other seven were licensed by Benjamin free of charge.

"Each artist mixed [their song] individually," explained Benjamin. "[The album] was mastered in the U.S. ... by Greg Calbi, at Sterling Sound, who's one of the top mastering engineers in the country, who donated his services, as did most of the [professionals] who worked on this project, as did all the artists."

The generosity of those participating in the CD project extended even beyond the songwriters and musicians, said Benjamin.

"Everybody, from the lawyers who [took care of] of the legal part of this, the artists who sang and the ... graphic artists who did work on the cover, the mastering engineer ... the production people" all contributed their time and services in support of a good cause, said Benjamin, who also mentioned that "the distribution company cut their fee in half."

In addition, a long list of retailers donated store space, advertising displays and listening stations to help promote and sell the album, according to an interview Benjamin did with "Billboard," the music industry trade publication.

While Springsteen himself wasn't involved with the creation of the CD, he supported the project when he became aware of it, and has reacted favorably after hearing the CD. His support is yet another exampling of Springsteen's history of supporting various causes and charities. "He's very giving of his time," said Benjamin.

Over 6,000 copies of the disc have sold in the first several weeks since its release, said Benjamin, and plans are being considered for a follow-up record.

"We're thinking about maybe doing another volume of it," said Benjamin.

The "Light of Day" concerts, which have been held officially since 2000, feature a line-up of familiar Jersey-shore names, as well as their extended musical families. Due to the high-demand for this year's event, tickets sold out hours after they went on sale, a second show was added. Tickets to the Sunday show also sold out quickly, promising a memorable weekend for everyone involved.

Part of the event's popularity comes from the frequent surprise appearances by Springsteen himself, who performed a full ninety-minute set with Joe Grushecky at Light of Day I in 2000.

This year's event includes a return appearance by Grushecky, one of Light of Day's staunchest supporters. Grushecky was one of the artists who ran with their track, taking it in a new direction from Springsteen's original recording.

"Joe Grushecky did an acoustic-blues version of "Light of Day," said Benjamin. "Where it was always just a rocker, a rock and roll song."

Joining Grushecky on the bill that evening will be over a dozen performers, including Garland Jeffreys and Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan, both of whom also contributed to the CD with their versions of "Streets of Philadelphia" and "Badlands," respectively.

The Sunday show features Jeffreys returning for an acoustic set, along with Gary U.S. Bonds, Dan Bern, Highway 9, John Eddie, Marah and a half-dozen other artists.

Benjamin said that over $100,000 has been raised since the Light of Day shows began, although he wouldn't know how much this years' events would add to that total until after the big weekend.

In addition to a possible follow-up to the CD, plans are being made for an online memorabilia auction, said Benjamin.

When asked if the events could ever get so big and unwieldy that they'd have to be stopped, Benjamin offered an adamant "No".

Turning to discuss the Parkinson's Disease Foundation itself, Benjamin said that advances have been made since he became involved with the charity, most notably in the field of stem cell research, despite some controversy surrounding the practice.

"There have been developments in deep - brain stimulation, which is like a pacemaker for the brain implanted in your head, which has been very successful when they use it ... They're finding new drugs and new treatments every day," said Benjamin.

When asked about the Bush administration's ban on funding for stem cell research, Benjamin called the policy "misguided."

"The stem cells that are in question here are not stem cells that come from fetuses. They are stem cells in the laboratory that are artificially-created embryos that will just be discarded if they are not used for research."

Important research in this area has moved outside of the United States, since scientists in this country no long have access to stem cell lines.

The PDF and Kristen Ann Car funds aren't the only charities that have benefited from Light of Day.

"Twenty-five percent of the net proceeds from the Light of Day shows will go to the MDA in Monmouth County for research in their ALS program," said Benjamin. "We're just trying to help in any way we can."

For more information, or to make a donation to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, contact:

Parkinson's Disease Foundation
William Black Medical Building
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center
710 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032-9982
212.923.4778 (fax)
e-mail: [email protected]

For more information, or to make a donation to The Kristen Ann Carr Fund, contact:

The Kristen Ann Carr Fund
648 Amsterdam Avenue
Suite 4A
New York, NY 10025-7456

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Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing.