To Fight Hunger, Musician Starts Hunger Strike

By Mark I. Levenstein

Published July 01, 2005, issue of July 01, 2005.
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A New York-based musician who played at the dedication of the Children’s Memorial Garden at the Museum of Jewish Heritage started a hunger strike at midnight on June 27, vowing not to eat until a major record label signs him.

Rocco, whose “Gardens of Imagination” piece from his debut album, “A Walk With Rocco,” played at the April 2003 memorial garden opening, is interested in more than the glamour of a record deal: He plans to donate a portion of the revenue he gets from “A Walk With Rocco” to fighting hunger.

The singer-songwriter, who has been involved with various hunger-fighting efforts since his first band got a gig playing at Students Against Famine in Africa about 15 years ago, hopes that his hunger strike will raise people’s awareness about the world’s 800 million hungry. “I’ve been working with people who don’t eat, and it’s just really been on my mind the past couple of years,” he said in an interview with the Forward, adding that he will consider the hunger strike successful if “it makes people more aware of the situation.”

Regardless, frustration at continuing to be overlooked by major record labels is his primary driving factor. “All I know is that all my life I’ve wanted to do something with my music, and I’m really at the end of my rope, so I figured I’d give [the hunger strike] a shot,” he said.

Not all Rocco’s efforts have been in vain. “September Sadness,” a song inspired by the tragedy of September 11, 2001, is popular in Sweden, where word-of-mouth and Web chatter eventually earned Rocco a distribution deal with a local record company. And in Hong Kong, a store is selling “A Walk With Rocco” next to albums by major American acts.

Rocco ate well on Sunday, filling himself with chicken and pasta, but he said he is now subsisting on juice and water. When asked if he planned to have a doctor monitor his health during his hunger strike, he said no, though he acknowledged that it was a good idea.

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