Not Fade Away | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Not Fade Away 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:45 pm

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“The day Danny was killed was the blackest day of my life,” says Mack, his eyes tearing up as he recalls learning of the murder. “When I got the call saying he’d been killed, I just froze, I literally couldn’t move for, I don’t know, several minutes. But then I got right on the phone to let Danny’s friends know. I wanted them to hear it from me first, instead of from Dan Rather or someone like that.” Pearl’s son, Adam Daniel Pearl, was born three months after the murder.

Even after his death, Pearl’s story has continued to resonate with the public, becoming the subject of numerous books, including a collection of his writing, At Home in the World (2002, Free Press), and an HBO documentary, The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl, and inspiring musical works by composers Steve Reich and Russell Steinberg. Most famously, A Mighty Heart (2007, Scribner), the memoir by Pearl’s widow, Mariane Pearl, was adapted into a 2007 film of the same name starring Angelina Jolie. But perhaps the reporter’s greatest legacy is the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which was established by his parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, shortly after his death to further the ideals that inspired his life and work by promoting cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and other forms of communication. The organization’s board includes such figures as Bill Clinton, Queen Noor, Christiane Amanpour, Ted Koppel, Itzhak Perlman, Elie Wiesel, and others, and sponsors Daniel Pearl Music Days, a week-long, worldwide series of concerts that takes place around Pearl’s October 10 birthday.

To coincide with the annual event, Mack founded FODfest in 2004, staring out with a modest concert in the backyard of his studio/home. Since then, the happening has grown to become a three-week national tour of folk-based jam sessions that this year kicks off with an October 10 concert at the Mahawie Theater in Great Barrington, wends its way south to Atlanta and Nashville, and finishes in California. Mack and several other musicians will perform on all 20 dates of the volunteer-run, donation-funded tour, but the majority of the players are local to each of the itinerary’s stops.

“The sessions are free to attend, and we try to give anyone who wants to play the chance to sit in,” says Mack. “Last year we had so many people who wanted to play we had to turn some away. But this time we’re a lot more organized and prepared. Before, I did the booking and a lot of the groundwork but now we’re working with a booking agency and a PR firm. So, hopefully, I won’t get an ulcer.” The 2007 tour featured over one hundred musicians from 14 states and three countries; this year, Mack expects upward of 250 players from all parts of the globe.

“FODfest is the true embodiment of Danny’s spirit—a tour he would definitely not miss,” says Judea Pearl, a revered computer scientist and philosopher who has taught at UCLA since 1970. “It is on one hand a faithful enactment of Danny’s passion for music as an instrument for borderless friendships, and on the other hand a statement of defiance against the forces that took his life and the culture of hatred that threatens music and friendship.”

Indeed, the pervasive feeling of musical bonhomie and the new friendships that spring up between the players, many of whom have never actually met prior to their time on stage together, has become almost legendary for an event of FODfest’s relatively young age. “The shows are great, really cool events, but they’re also bigger than just a night of folk music,” says Newburgh singer-songwriter Todd Giudice, who performed at FODfest 2007 and will appear again on this year’s tour. “They’re also a way to address a really deep and twisted subject, racial and religious hatred, while still keeping everything on the light side. The spirit of the event is really tied into what I understand Danny loved to do, which was to bring people together to jam.”

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