Parkinson's benefit CD continues
There's a new collection featuring
singer-songwriters showing up in record stores across the
country and online music outlets. And while a double-CD set
featuring well-known artists like Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby
and Graham Nash will surely have national appeal, the genesis
of the album can be traced all the way back to an English
classroom at Lawrence High School.
where former Lawrence resident Selma Litowitz taught for 20
years. She retired to confront a battle more challenging than
any Shakespearean translation — her own fight with Parkinson's
disease. It is something she continues to struggle with 15
"ParkinSong Volume 1: 38
Songs on Hope," is a musical benefit released May 11 by the
ParkinSong Foundation Inc., a Princeton-based nonprofit
organization that supports the search for innovative therapies
for Parkinson's, a progressive neurological disease for which
there is no known cure. The foundation was formed by Ms.
Litowitz's children in 2001.
"This CD is
part of an evolution that began with my sisters and my desire
to come up with a way to honor my parents and their struggles
with Parkinson's," said son Rob Litowitz of his efforts with
sisters, Debbie Frank and Carol
The siblings initially created
two benefit concerts, the first of which was hosted in 2001 by
Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Mr. Stewart
graduated from LHS in 1980, and was a proud student of Ms.
Litowitz, often noting she was the only teacher who ever liked
him as a budding comedian in high school. A second concert was
held the next year with Philadelphia rock DJ Pierre Robert at
Using music in their mother's
honor seemed like a natural fit, Mr. Litowitz
"I think people respond to music,"
he said. "It's an emotional and visceral vehicle. My mother
was someone who loved music. She wasn't a musician, but was
someone with a song in her heart."
the concerts were big successes, raising tens of thousands of
dollars for Parkinson's research, they also took a toll on the
siblings in terms of logistics and
That's when the concept of
the benefit album came to Mr.
"I naively set out upon the
idea of making it happen," he said. "I used Verizon's slogan,
'Make progress every day.' I figured if I do a little every
day, I can see if I can make this
He was lucky to receive
overwhelming support from the music industry. Artists like Ana
Egge and Grey Eye Glances that performed at the benefit
concerts were generous in providing selections for the set.
Lloyd Maines, the father of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, came
on board as producer. Soon, the fledgling project had 38
tracks and ballooned to a double-disc
The musical selection spans
numerous genres, starting with the warm harmonica introduction
to alt-country star Terri Hendrix's "Goodbye Charlie Brown,"
and shifting through many folk transitions before winding up
with Alejandro Escovedo's frenetic
"There's all different
styles, but what holds it all together is the storytelling,"
said Ms. Egge, who contributed the track, "Wedding Dress,"
from her album, "101 Sundays." "All the songs seem passionate
to me. The songwriters are clearly trying to communicate
something to the listener. It's a crazy time right now and
people are looking for meaning."
of the songs either recorded for ParkinSong or previously
unreleased, many of the older works were selected with special
care to the overall theme of the album. Many offer uplifting
tones such as "Lucky Day," by the adult alternative trio,
Stone Coyotes. "Whatever you do, don't be discouraged/Do you
hear the words we say?" they sing, "Something might be coming
around the corner/This could be your lucky
Ms. Egge's song, "Wedding Dress," doesn't offer a literal tie to Parkinson's, but rather a tale
of a woman struggling to come to terms with her own family
experiences falling short of the dream of marriage. But it is
Ms. Raitt's contribution that caught Ms. Egge's
"Fearless Love" kicks off the second
disc and features the Grammy-winning artist's 1998 portrait of
commitment despite any necessary
"It sounds like it came off
one of her earliest records, which were my favorites when I
was growing up," said the 27-year-old Ms. Egge. "It's so
beautiful. It just pulls you in."
several of the songs do relate directly of the struggles of
Parkinson's, including Crosby and Nash's 1975 ode to Mr.
Crosby's mother, "Carry Me," and Tom Russell's "Muhammad Ali,"
a tribute to the proud former heavyweight boxing champion, who
also has Parkinson's. Eastmountainsouth's "Mark Song," is
dedicated to Ms. Litowitz's husband,
The most direct line may be drawn
by Dave Alvin, a Los Angeles punk/rockabilly artist, who
offers a personal account of his own father's struggle with
the disease on "The Man in the
Written from his father's
perspective, the exclusive version of the song tackles the
effects of Parkinson's with honesty, strength and even a sense
of humor. "The nurse over there doesn't know that I ain't some
helpless so-and-so/I could have broken her heart not that long
ago," Mr. Alvin sings, "Young and wild like I'll always be/The
man in the bed isn't me."
already drew mentions in Billboard and Rolling Stone, and Mr.
Stewart agreed to promote the album through an interview with
the Associated Press. Joining the promotional push is
television actor Richard Kind, who grew up in Yardley, Pa.,
and worked on the TV show, "Spin City," with actor Michael J.
Fox, who has Parkinson's.
willing to go to bat for the cause hasn't been a problem for
Mr. Litowitz, who noted that the celebrities and music artists
seem to react strongly to what they see as a "labor of
It was something Ms. Egge realized
early on, meeting Ms. Litowitz for the first time at the 2001
"She's affected so many
people's lives for the better," Ms. Egge said. "The way that
people responded to the benefits speaks amazingly about the
way people think of her."
The effort —
from the original concert to the new album — has also gotten a
positive reaction from Mr. Litowitz's
"They've really been touched by
it," Mr. Litowitz said. "It's a way of fighting back against
the disease and the toll it's taken. It's a way of doing
something positive out of something that has been quite
A scientific advisory board
will assist the foundation in selecting appropriate grant
recipients as a result of the album's proceeds. And Mr.
Litowitz hasn't ruled out a second compilation in the future — assuming this first effort is
So he hopes people give
"ParkinSong Volume 1," a chance, even if they aren't familiar
with names that aren't fixtures on pop
"It is a who's who of the greatest
American singer-songwriters today," Mr. Litowitz said. "Not
only will purchasing this album help Parkinson's research, but
you'll also have two hours of great music."
more information on "ParkinSong Volume 1" or the foundation
itself, visit http://www.parkinsong.com/.
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