By Al Kaufman
When Henry Strongin Goldberg was two weeks old, he was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a genetic defect that inhibits DNA repair and causes patients to acquire a plethora of potentially fatal diseases. Henry died when he was seven years old, but he crammed a lot of living (and ice cream) into his short years. Although most of his life was lived in a hospital, Henry had an infectious smile and unrelenting spirit that his parents, Laurie Strongin and Allen Goldberg, are honoring by making sure other children who are forced to spend most of their days and nights in hospital rooms get a chance to experience love and happiness.
The Hope For Henry Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., gives gifts such as iPods and Game Boys to children battling life-threatening illnesses, as well as to their siblings. It offers celebratory events, such as birthday parties, and provides programs for hospitals to help them implement activities and amenities for children undergoing treatment.
In addition to being one of the founders and serving on the board of the Hope for Henry Foundation, Allen Goldberg also helped start JewsRock.org, a now defunct website that celebrated popular Jewish musicians. One Jew who rocks, or at least folks, Todd Snider, will headline the first Hope for Henry Benefit Concert on November 14, at the Rock and Roll Hotel, in Washington, D,C.
Called “America’s finest storyteller” by Rolling Stone magazine, Snider is what you would get if Woody Guthrie and Mark Twain smoked a lot of pot and had a child together. He has written remarkable songs about George W. Bush’s frat boy days (“You Got Away With It”), Doc Ellis’ no hitter while on LSD (“America’s Favorite Pastime,” off his latest CD The Excitement Plan). An unabashed liberal, he put out the anti-war CD Peace Queer, and wrote the bitingly hilarious, “Conservative, Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White American Males.” But Snider, like the true hippie that he is, loves everyone. So it is not surprising that he would get involved with a charity that helps sick children. His characters are regular people (or, very often, himself) that have a slightly skewed view of the world. The view is sometimes tragic, often funny, but always imaginative.
Live, Snider is a sight to behold. He can weave tales that would make Ramblin’ Jack Elliot’s head spin. He is a true modern day troubadour, a gifted storyteller and musician who wears his heart on his sleeve, but turns it into a drum by banging on it with his funny bone. He is, like his should-be parents Twain and Guthrie, an American treasure.
Todd Snider plays the Hope for Henry Benefit Concert at the Rock and Roll Hotel on November 13. $50. Special VIP package, including a pre-show meet and greet with Snider, valet parking, premium viewing area and a special gift, starts at 7 p.m., $125.