Benjamin Smoke

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Benjamin
BenjaminSmoke.jpg
Background information
Birth name Robert Dickerson
Also known as Benjamin
Born (1960-01-28)January 28, 1960
Origin Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died January 29, 1999(1999-01-29) (aged 39)
Genres Punk rock
Indie rock
Instruments Vocals, Bass
Years active 1970s–1990s
Associated acts

Smoke

Opal Foxx Quartet
Website Benjamin Smoke Remembered

Benjamin (born Robert Dickerson) was an American singer-songwriter who fronted the Atlanta, Georgia bands Smoke and the Opal Foxx Quartet. He was noted for being a radical, gay rock 'n' roll performer.[1] He died on January 29, 1999 due to liver failure caused by Hepatitis C at age 39. He performed his final concert in Atlanta, Georgia on New Year's Eve, 1998.

He was the subject of a documentary released in 2000 called Benjamin Smoke directed by Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen, filming for which took 10 years.[2]

History[edit]

Benjamin lived for many years in Cabbagetown, a neighborhood in Atlanta, an "unsafe"[3] area peopled with hustlers and eccentrics.[3] There, he occasionally dressed up as a drag queen[2] from a young age. When he was just nine years old he would appear in public wearing woman’s clothing, "with a towel on my head like Whoopi (Goldberg), going to the Waffle House in a dress".[3] In New York he found work at the famed club CBGB's, which he described as "the filthiest place I ever was". He earned $20 a day, his duties consisted of sweeping up broken glass left by performers and audiences the evening prior.[3]

Benjamin was a known character in the underground scene in 1980s Atlanta and participated in a number of Atlanta music experiments such as Easturn Stars, Monroe is Naked Again, Freedom Puff, Blade Emotion, and the Opal Foxx Quartet (which often had up to 12 members). His bands played in such venues as 688, Celebrity Club, Pillowtex, Destroy All Music Festival, among others.[4] For the band, Smoke donned the stage name "Miss Opal Foxx".[5] During this time his vocals received media attention and Tom Waits comparisons arose. His voice has since been described as "resembling the roar of a wounded lion".[4] After some of the musicians of the group died, the band Smoke was conceived in 1992 with members Bill Taft, Brian Halloran, and Todd Butler. Coleman Lewis and Tim Campion later joined the band, followed by Will Fratesi. Smoke was renowned for his on-stage banter, never shying away from provoking his viewers, "for a faggot, do I have a rockin' band or what?"[3]

Benjamin was addicted to the drug speed and he also had AIDS, though he claimed "HIV is not a death sentence".[3] AIDS brought him closer to his estranged mother, though he eventually lost his life due to Hepatitis C.[3]

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Benjamin Smoke". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Benjamin Smoke (2000)". Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Benjamin Smoke". Film Journal. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  4. ^ a b "Smoke: Another Reason to Fast". CD Baby. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  5. ^ "Benjamin Smoke". phase9tv. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  6. ^ "Jesus Christ: A Resurrection". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  7. ^ "The Love That Won't Shut Up;". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2007-10-20.