Dickinson College Homepage Dickinson Magazine This issue of the Dickinson Magazine was mailed on Friday, October 1, 2004
From This Issue
Volume 82 • Number 2
Fall 2004

An Impresario is Born
Rob Litowitz ’78 helps musicians come together for a good cause
By Jessica Grinspan ’05
His was an elaborate, quixotic dream. Rob Litowitz ’78 called it a “wild, crazy, unattainable goal.” And then the soft-spoken intellectual-property lawyer was inspired by an episode of Seinfeld.

“It’s the one where George Costanza decides he’ll do the opposite of what he’s done all his life,” Litowitz explains. “I thought I’d do the same. I decided to do something that wasn’t my normal tendency.”

So instead of letting his distant dream dissipate, Litowitz bravely set out to turn it into reality.

So began the ParkinSong Foundation, a nonprofit organization to benefit research on Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder that causes a gradual loss of muscle control. Litowitz’s mother, Selma, was diagnosed with the crippling disease in 1991, and he witnessed the tragic degeneration of her health, for Parkinson’s has no cure.

But Litowitz wouldn’t abandon hope. This time, he was doing the opposite.

The idea for the foundation began with a 2001 benefit concert at Lawrence High School in New Jersey, where Selma had been a teacher for 20 years. It was hosted by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, who graduated from Lawrence High in 1980 and was one of her favorite students.

“My sisters and I were trying to think of some appropriate way to honor our parents for their 50th anniversary,” Litowitz recalls. “A benefit concert seemed like a good idea.

“I talked to several of my friends who were musicians,” Litowitz explains. “It wasn’t really hard to get them to agree to perform.” Litowitz, who hosts “house concerts”—hiring bands to play at parties in his D.C.-area home—and whose 300-lawyer firm, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabrow, Garrett & Dunner L.L.P., holds annual receptions, already had connections in the music industry. His legal work with trademarks also brought him key contacts.

A second benefit concert was held a year later in Newtown, Pa. But while the concerts were successful, organizing them took a tremendous amount of time and effort, Litowitz says. It was time for a new—and perhaps even grander—idea.

Thus was borne ParkinSong: 38 Songs of Hope, Volume 1. Produced by Lloyd Maines, father of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, and featuring tracks by folk-rock artists like David Crosby and Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt and alt-country performers Kelly Willis and Little Pink—the band of Mary Battiata ’78—the double disc was released in May to raise money for Parkinson’s research.

“All of the profit will be donated to research organizations,” Litowitz says. As of midsummer, the album had raised nearly $10,000. A scientific advisory board will help the foundation select worthy recipients of the funds.

And so Litowitz, the man of opposites, has slowly begun to realize his once remote and intangible dream.

“It was easier than I’d thought,” Litowitz attests. “I started [by asking] artists with whom I had personal relationships [if they would donate a track],” musicians such as David Crosby, for whom he had waged a trademark battle. “All encouraged me and gave me some great leads,” he says.

“This CD is a great source of pride for me,” he adds. “I really thought this was an insurmountable goal. And I can’t speak highly enough of the artists who participated. They all had an intuitive sense that I was genuine. They were intrigued and inspired, rather than indifferent.”

Of the tracks on the CD, two are about Parkinson’s disease: Dave Alvin’s “The Man in the Bed,” a moving tribute to the artist’s father, who has the disease, and Tom Russell’s “Muhammad Ali,” a poignant reflection on the boxing champion’s life and illness. “The other tracks are anthems about overcoming adversity and disease in general,” Litowitz explains.

“This is a wonderful compilation,” he says. “We had artists from all echelons of music coming together for a good cause. Everyone was very supportive. It’s a grass-roots movement and a good sample of the singer/songwriter arena, a veritable who’s who.”

Litowitz’s own favorites on the album? “I’d have to say that ‘Carry Me’ by Crosby and Nash is my sentimental favorite. But the Stone Coyotes’ ‘Lucky Day’ is my contemporary favorite.”

If all goes well, Litowitz intends to release a ParkinSong, Volume 2. An all-star concert, featuring a handful of the artists whose tracks appear on the CD, is slated to occur at Dickinson this spring.

For more information about the ParkinSong Foundation
and ParkinSong: 38 Songs of Hope, Volume 1, visit
www.parkinsong.com.

Listen to a few sample tracks from the CD (in mp3 format)

Lucky Day by the Stone Coyotes - 01-9 Stone Coyotes - Lucky Day.mp3

Man In The Bed by Dave Alvin - 01-12 Dave Alvin - The Man in the Bed.mp3

Don't Lay Down by Catie Curtis - 01-18 Catie Curtis - Don't Lay Down.mp3

 


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