Consider Selma Litowitz , a retired high school English teacher from Lawrence , NJ . When she was struck with Parkinson's Disease in 1991, she refused to let it rule her life. An ultimately terminal affliction that attacks the nervous system and slowly robs the sufferer of all motor skills, this condition could easily have forced her to give up. But Selma was strong; she remained resolute in the face of this foe, maintaining her composure, her humor and her dignity.
Over 10 years, Selma 's children -- Rob, Debra, and Carol -- watched her continually triumph over increasingly longer odds. And they were inspired. In 2001, they approached Lawrence High School , where Selma had taught for over 20 years, with the idea of a benefit concert that would raise money for Parkinson's research. Called ParkinSong , the event featured the kind of music that historically has always uplifted the spirit and inspired others. Master singer-songwriters Ana Egge and Terri Hendrix were chosen, as was adult alternative buzz band Grey Eye Glances . And there was a special surprise: Jon Stewart, the quick-witted host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show , had been one of Selma 's favorite students before he graduated in 1980. He readily agreed to return to his alma mater, noting at the time, "She was one of my favorites. It's not easy to teach teenagers. And she did it with great joy and aplomb, and that's a rare thing."
The show sold out almost immediately and the Litowitz kids were inspired to present another concert a year later. This one was hosted by legendary Philadelphia DJ Pierre Robert, and featured the major label singer-songwriter Catie Curtis , in addition to Hendrix and Egge. It, too, was a rousing success and the ParkinSong Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Princeton , NJ , was born.
For Rob Litowitz, however, this was still not enough. Faced with his mother's enduring bravery and grace, he felt he had to do even more. And so, he took ParkinSong to the world. Using connections he's made through the two concerts, as well as his work as an attorney, Rob began assembling an album that would not only bring in more research money but would also give the struggle against Parkinson's Disease the high profile it truly deserved.
And so, ParkinSong: 38 Songs of Hope, Volume One was born. According to Rob, the project was surprisingly easy to put together. "Very few of the artists we contacted declined to participate," he notes. "And those who did, did so only because it was impractical for them. Nobody failed to respond. Even those who turned us down were supportive and encouraging."
The resulting double album is a stunning achievement, featuring a roster of artists that not only reflects the richness of today's singer-songwriters, but also the broad resonance of this cause. From superstars like Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby and Graham Nash to emerging talents like Utah Carol and Florence Dore , from rockers like Dave Alvin to lush neo folkies like Dar Williams, and from classic roots rockers like Steve Forbert to rising innovators like eastmountainsouth, ParkinSong: Songs of Hope, Volume One covers an admirably broad range of styles and voices.
And so, in the true spirit of Selma Litowitz, there's something here to inspire just about everyone.
Terri Hendrix -- Alt-country singer-songwriter from San Antonio , TX who's acclaimed for her earthy sensuality. www.terrihendrix.com
Greg Brown -- Gentle singer-songwriter who's best known for his work with Garrison Keillor on the Prairie Home Companion radio program. www.gregbrown.org
Caitlin Cary -- A founding member of the seminal alt-country band Whiskeytown, this singer/fiddler beautifully extends that group's haunting neo-traditionalism. www.caitlincary.com
Chuck Prophet -- A member of LA's legendary Green On Red, this singer and virtuoso guitarist has since developed a highly distinctive take on American roots music. www.chuckprophet.com
Hot Club of Cowtown -- Originally from San Diego but now based in Austin , TX , this trio are acknowledged masters of the challenging Western swing style. www.hotclubofcowtown.com
Pete Sears -- Renowned Bay Area singer/keyboardist who's best known for his work with Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship. www.petesears.com
Neko Case -- A member of the indie rock supergroup, The New Pornographers, this singer explores the moodier shadows of the alt-country sound. www.nekocase.com
Jen Chapin -- The daughter of folk rock legend Harry Chapin, this New York singer-songwriter blends jazz, pop and R&B into a compelling, intimate statement. www.jenchapin.com
Stone Coyotes -- Reflective adult alternative trio that's best known for a series of readings and concerts with crime novelist Elmore Leonard. www.stonecoyotes.com
Lucy Kaplansky -- A harmony singer with Nanci Griffith and a longtime duo partner of Shawn Colvin, this New York singer-songwriter creates an unusually literate variety of alternative folk. www.lucykaplansky.com
David Crosby & Graham Nash -- One half of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and two of the key architects of the whole folk rock genre. www.crosbycpr.com
Dave Alvin -- A co-founder of LA's seminal punkabilly band the Blasters, this singer-songwriter now defines a particularly tough and literate edge of Americana . www.blastersnewsletter.com
Florence Dore -- Nasville-based country rocker with a pleasantly strong punk influence. www.missrubyrecords.com
Alejandro Escovedo -- A founding member of the legendary cow punk outfit Rank and File, this Austin , TX singer-songwriter has explored all facets of roots rock over a career that's almost three decades along. www.alejandroescovedo.com
eastmountainsouth -- Protégés of Robbie Robertson, this duo is one of the leading younger acts on the alt-folk scene. www.eastmountainsouth.com
Steve Forbert -- Best known for late 70s hits like "Romeo's Tune" and "Going Down to Laurel ," this folk rocker continues to produce exquisitely detailed portraits of American life. www.steveforbert.com
Tom Freund -- Former duo partner of Ben Harper and a member of renowned roots rockers the Silos, this singer-songwriter gives his material a cool, jazzy spin. www.tomfreund.com
Catie Curtis -- Boston-based singer-songwriter whose urban folk sound deconstructs modern life with humor and insight. www.catiecurtis.com
Sara Hickman -- Country folk singer who's best known for her 1994 hit "I Couldn't Help Myself" as well as her frequent benefit performances for numerous charities. www.sarahickman.com
Bonnie Raitt -- The bestselling, Grammy-winning artist who's sung everything from straight blues to rock to lush ballads with her trademark passion and finesse. www.bonnieraitt.com
Eliza Gilkyson -- Singer-songwriter from Austin, TX who's written material for Roseanne Cash and recorded with punk rock hero John Doe. www.elizagilkyson.com
Grey Eye Glance s -- New Jersey folk rockers whose atmospheric, literate songs have become favorites on Triple A radio. www.greyeyeglances.com
Richard X. Heyman -- Revered power pop artist whose rare early ‘90s albums are now considered classics by critics and collectors alike. www.richardxheyman.com
Last Train Home -- Country rock band from Washington , DC whose front man, Eric Brace, is also a journalist for The Washington Post . www.lasttrainhome.com
Amy Farris -- Songwriter/violinist who's worked with, among many others, Sara Hickman and Alejandro Escovedo. www.amyfarris.com
Cindy Kalmenson -- Nashville-based singer-songwriter whose country flavored work has won numerous songwriting awards. www.cindykalmenson.com
Alice Peacock -- Chicago-based singer-songwriter whose deeply personal material finds a fresh common ground between folk, rock and country. www.alicepeacock.com
Michelle Malone -- A longtime associate of the Indigo Girls, this Atlanta , GA folk rocker balances a bluesy aggression with a deeply melodic tenderness. www.michellemalone.com
Kim Richey -- Nashville-based singer-songwriter whose progressive country sound has drawn frequent comparisons to John Hiatt and Shawn Colvin. www.kimrichey.com
Ana Egge -- Austin , TX singer-songwriter whose work has won numerous industry awards. www.anaegge.net
Amy Rigby -- With roots in the New York punk scene of the 1980s, this Nashville-based singer-songwriter mixes pop, country and folk with sly lyrics and plenty of attitude. www.amyrigby.com
Jonatha Brooke -- One of the core artists of Triple A radio, this singer-songwriter was recently heard on the soundtrack to Disney's Return To Never Land . www.jonathbrooke.com
Tom Russell -- A longtime Texas resident, this country-tinged singer-songwriter has had material recorded by Johnny Cash and k. d. lang, among many others. www.tomrussell.com
Dar Williams -- Acerbic, insightful and thoroughly modern, this New England singer-songwriter is widely credited with giving folk a truly alternative sensibility. www.darwilliams.com
Utah Carol -- A Chicago-based husband and wife duo that crafts a dreamy variety of adult alternative pop. www.utahcarol.com
Little Pink --
Little Pink -- alt.country outfit led by
singer-songwriter Mary Battiata, part of Washington D.C.'s roots music
Kelly Willis -- One of the brightest lights in the New Traditionalist movement of country music, this singer-songwriter matches insightful material with truly riveting performances. www.kellywillis.com
Lowen and Navarro -- Authors of Pat Benatar's Top 5 track "We Belong," this songwriting duo puts an adult contemporary spin on their unusually well-crafted material. www.lownav.com