Sunday night will be a very special night for music fans in our area as well as two local musicians.
John Jennings and Grace Griffith are local talents who have both had national success. Jennings was a songwriter and producer for hometown heroine Mary Chapin Carpenter, and has also worked with the Indigo Girls, George Jones, BeauSoleil and Lyle Lovett. Grace Griffith is a nationally-renowned Celtic singer who helped to launch the career of the late Eva Cassidy.
The two have something else in common -- both are battling debilitating diseases. Jennings has metastatic kidney cancer and Griffith is living with Parkinson’s.
“So Grace is in trouble and John is in trouble,” Grammy-winning songwriter Bill Danoff and close friend of the two artists said.
Danoff explained when artists get sick, even with health insurance, it can be financially devastating.
“These guys get paid when they work and sing. If they don't have a string of royalties coming in, they’re in bad shape.” Danoff said.
“I’d be touring with Mary Chapin right now, I’d be producing, but being ill has put me on the DL,” Jennings said. “I’m not sure when I’ll be take up my schedule again. It’s going to be a while.”
To help ease that financial burden, dozens of local musicians and bands will be performing at two benefit concerts Sunday night.
"Everybody Loves Him: A Tribute and benefit for John Jennings" will be at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club, and the "Grace Griffith tribute and CD Release Concert" will take place at the Birchmere in Alexandria.
Organizers of the two events didn’t realize the benefits were being scheduled the same night until it was too late to make a change.
Legendary DJ Cerphe said Sunday night will be a rare opportunity for music lovers.
“Usually that doesn’t happen," Cerphe said. "Great bands are out there and touring, but we get a chance to see a bunch of great musicians in one place it’s going to be great a magical night."
The Jennings benefit includes the likes of Eddie From Ohio, Mary Ann Redmond, the reunion of Bill Holland and Rent's Due and Jennings' old band, Big Yankee Dollar, to name a few.
The Griffith show includes Tom Paxton, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
Griffith's performance is going challenging. It took her two years to record her new CD -- Parkinson's slowed her down to recording the CD one phrase at a time.
“Every record is a labor of love and in Grace’s case, particularly so.” Jennings said. “Part of the beauty of the benefit for her is that she will do some singing, but when she cant sing, other people will take over.”
As Jennings sat by his guitar in the shadow of a gold record that hangs on his living room wall, he said he has no intention of giving up -- and neither does Griffith.
“We’re supposed to keep doing this until we can’t do it anymore and she can still do it and so can I,” Jennings said.