Benjamin Lerner, the great-grandson of Irving Berlin (composer of such iconic tunes as “God Bless America” and “White Christmas”), started writing poetry at the age of eight and playing piano at the age of nine. A prodigy, by fourteen, Benjamin was playing full classical concerts. At fourteen he also fell in love with rap music.
But the pressure of living up to the expectations of his family's musical legacy proved too much for him. Benjamin began using drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication. In his early teens, it was limited to binge-drinking and habitual marijuana-use. At twenty, Benjamin was prescribed oxycodone for dental surgery and became addicted. Within two years, his opiate addiction had progressed into a full-fledged IV heroin and crack cocaine addiction. After multiple stints in rehab and years of on-again/off-again maintenance medications, Benjamin sought help for his addiction in June 2016. He has remained sober ever since.
Benjamin credits his continued success in recovery to his ability to express his emotions relating to his struggle through word and song. He has developed a new hybrid genre, combining rap and classical piano. He creates all new piano compositions rooted in classical music theory – and simultaneously raps over them, journaling his experience with addiction and life in sobriety. His first full album is currently in its final stages of development, with a planned release in 2020. Benjamin hopes that by sharing his story, others struggling with addiction, will find hope and help. He feels it is never too late to find one’s true-self. Benjamin’s great-grandfather created a vision of hope in the 20th century through his music. Similarly, Benjamin hopes that by sharing his personal journey through this new hybrid of rap and classical music, he can bring hope to others who are struggling.
“When I first went to rehab,” Benjamin admits, “I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to make music anymore, because I made music about doing drugs for so long, I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it without getting high. It took getting clean for me to realize that expression and creativity are the drugs I’ve been searching for all along. I’m still a junkie. I just get high off of music now.”
“I am genuinely excited about his music and his message. Not only is he incredibly talented as a poet and musician, I think there is tremendous possibility for real impact and health education through his art,” says Joshua Sherman, M.D. a practicing physician, who is also the producer of the album. “Lin-Manuel Miranda created a new hybrid with Hamilton, as did Lil Nas X’s country rap ‘Old Town Road’. Similarly, Benjamin Lerner has created a new genre with his piano-rap, ‘Dan & Dave.’”
“Dan & Dave” is available for download and streaming. The track was produced at Old Mill Road Recording in East Arlington, Vermont. It was recorded and mixed by GRAMMY® Award-winning Engineer, Benjamin J. Arrindell. The associated short film for “Dan & Dave” was animated by Leonard Kenyon.