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.
|Intellectual-property lawyer Rob Litowitz believes that stem-cell research should be pursued as a means to treat Parkinson’s disease.
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
Litowitz’s own favorites on the album? “I’d have to say that ‘Carry
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
and ParkinSong: 38 Songs of Hope, Volume 1, visit
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
01-12 Dave Alvin - The Man in the Bed.mp3
Don't Lay Down by Catie
01-18 Catie Curtis - Don't Lay Down.mp3