Benjamin Smoke

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Background information
Birth nameRobert Dickerson
Also known asBenjamin
Born(1960-01-28)January 28, 1960
OriginAtlanta, Georgia, United States
DiedJanuary 29, 1999(1999-01-29) (aged 39)
GenresPunk rock
Indie rock
InstrumentsVocals, Bass
Years active1970s–1990s
Associated actsSmoke
Opal Foxx Quartet

Benjamin (born Robert Dickerson) was an American poet and singer-songwriter who fronted the Atlanta, Georgia bands Smoke and the Opal Foxx Quartet. He was noted for being a radical 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]


Benjamin lived for many years in Cabbagetown, an "unsafe"[3] neighborhood in Atlanta 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,Benjamin 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 an amphetamine addict and he also had AIDS, though he claimed "HIV is not a death sentence".[3] AIDS brought him closer to his mother, though he eventually lost his life due to Hepatitis C.[3]


  1. ^ "Benjamin Smoke". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. 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. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
  4. ^ a b "Smoke: Another Reason to Fast". CD Baby. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
  5. ^ "Benjamin Smoke". phase9tv. Archived from the original on 2006-08-14. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  6. ^ "Jesus Christ: A Resurrection". Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  7. ^ "The Love That Won't Shut Up;". Retrieved 2007-10-20.