I am deeply saddened to announce that Benny Mardones, artist and writer of 3x Billboard Charted Record “INTO THE NIGHT”, has died at 73, says long time friend and record producer, Joel Diamond.
Benny died peacefully at his home in Menifee, CA on June 29, 2020 with his loving wife at his side. He died from complications of Parkinson’s disease. In addition to his wife Jane, Benny is survived by his son Michael and sister Louise. Benny was born Ruben Armand Mardones in Cleveland, Ohio on November 9,1946, and his father, Ruben Mardones, Sr., was from Santiago, Chile.
"I have lost my husband and the love of my life. Not a day went by without Benny telling me how much he loved me. When he knew the end was coming and near coma, he would ask me to come close and struggle to sing “I’ve Got You” (click: https://youtu.be/zfJuJcfTLx4). For the last 12 years he would often surprise me with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and a note attached saying in Danish “Jeg Elsker Dig” (I Love You)," said Jane.
Benny was raised in Savage, Maryland and later moved to Syracuse, NY, where he became their “Hometown Hero”. He then moved to Woodstock, NY, and most recently for the past 20 years has resided in Southern California. Benny joined the Navy right after high school and fought in the Vietnam War.
Benny Mardones is a name you might not be familiar with, but as soon as you hear the first “signature” chords (click: https://youtu.be/m20bgdHdNk8) of "Into The Night", you will instantly know the song and the artist. He exploded onto the music scene in 1980 and was quickly nicknamed "The Voice," a title earned because of his incredible range as well as his soulful and passionate performances. "Into The Night" has been played over 8 Million times and to this day is still one of the most frequently played rock tunes in America.
Upon hearing the news of Benny's passing, Delilah, radio personality and host of a nightly syndicated show with 8 million listeners, best described Benny: "His voice is like whiskey, smooth but with that edgy bite. But his heart is like a hug from your dearest friend, the kind of hug that holds on and doesn’t let go and pours so much goodness straight into your heart...Benny is one of a kind and his talent and his love has enriched my life and the lives of all my family."
Tommy Mottola, former Chairman & CEO of Sony Music, said: “One of the best voices since Daryl Hall”.
After his most recent recording (click: https://youtu.be/E8ZlsfXuR3c) of "Into The Night 2019", Benny has now been memorialized in the history books of Billboard for having the Same Song, Different Recordings, Different Labels, Different Decades, & Different Centuries charted 3 different times. Also for very the first time there are two Club Remixes of "Into The Night 2019" by iconic Remixers Dirty Werk & Eric Kupper (click: https://youtu.be/sMk7w2JimkQ), all produced by Joel Diamond.
He might have been known by some as a ‘One Hit Wonder’, but how many people can claim a “Three-In-One Hit Wonder?” says Diamond.
As part of his legacy, Benny’s final wish and his ultimate gift was to donate his body after-death to Parkinson’s for advanced medical research and education.
A Memorial Service will be announced in the near future.
Benny’s long and storied career in music certainly had lots of unexpected peaks and valleys, but through it all, he was always an optimist and a fighter, right to the end. These qualities helped make the throaty singer burst onto the scene and the charts with “Into The Night”, the song he co-wrote with Robert Tepper; which incidentally marks and celebrates 40 years on June 14, 2020, since its first release.
Benny’s life was dramatically changed when he met Jane in 2009 and they married in 2011. Jane was a gift from God right at the time in Benny’s life when he needed it most. She was not only Benny’s loving and devoted partner, care-giver, and best friend, but she was also his “rock”.
As a cocky eleven-year-old, Benny entered the annual Fourth of July talent show in his home town, asking the young back-up group to play "Jailhouse Rock" for him. They said, “What key do you want to do it in?" Mardones recalls that his answer was, “I really don't know”, when in fact, he admitted afterwards, he didn't know anything about music. Well, the back-up group selected their own key and “I went out on stage, grabbed the mike, and started singing, shakin' my leg and swiveling my hips. I brought the house down and won the talent show." Two months later, he was performing regularly with the same back-up group at high school dances and fire halls.
Benny had already developed a taste for the rock and R&B music of the day including Elvis, The Dells and his very favorite singer, Roy Orbison. Orbison was his first rock concert ever, and what an awkward moment he had with his idol. Benny remembers, "I had an extra ticket and my friend asked me if I would sell it for him. I see a guy walking up, a girl on each arm, cat dressed in black...I thought man, that guy looks cool.” I asked him if he needed a ticket and he said, “I believe I already have one,” and he laughed. I continued, “don’t you think that Roy Orbison is the best singer in the world?” The man answered, “I'm sure he'd like to hear that.” “My seat was way up in the balcony for the show, and when this same person that I had just tried to scalp a ticket to walked out on stage, I realized it was Roy Orbison and just about died."
Ironically, later on Benny appeared on a Showtime Tribute to Roy Orbison, alongside such luminaries as Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Johnny Cash, and K.D. Lang. Elvis Presley's band was the house band for the evening. When Benny walked on stage to sing "Running Scared," few people knew his name as compared to the other names, but by the time he finished the song, not only did everybody know his name but he also received a standing ovation for his performance.
It was 1969 that Benny arrived in New York City from Savage, and his first stop was Mercury Records/MRC Music. He marched into the receptionist and said “I would like to audition for the man in charge!” Joel Diamond, new to the business himself but yet a very astute young head of the Music Publishing division, along with his then assistant Tommy Mottola, were blown away when Benny sang a capella in his office. They offered him a staff writer position, and Joel hooked him up with then staff writer Alan Miles. It was then and there that Mardones honed in on his innate writing skills. He and Alan proceeded to write material for Brenda Lee, Three Dog Night, Main Ingredient, Free, Tommy James and a #1 R&B hit with Barbara Jean English. When Diamond became the head of Sony Music Publishing in 1972, he brought Benny along with him and gave him his a writing room in which he created his own personal audition showcase-stage for many luminaries brought in by Diamond, including Clive Davis.
Joel produced and got Benny his first record deal with White Whale Records with a Mardones/Miles penned song, “Stand & Be Counted”. Through Diamond, he scored his second record deal, also with Diamond producing, with Columbia Records, where he recorded the classic doo-wop hit “Please Say You Want Me” and later Diamond put Benny together with The Sound Of Philadelphia & arranger Bobby Martin (“Me & Mrs. Jones”, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, etc.) and then produced his second single for Columbia, “And Tomorrow Means Another Day We’re Apart”.
It would be several years later after Benny’s first initial round of success, that Benny got a knock on his door and opened it only to find Andrew Loog Oldham (manager and producer of The Rolling Stones) along with Larry Uttal, the president of Private Stock Records. Soon Benny found himself in recording studio with a band including Mick Ronson on guitar, Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley, and being produced by Oldham. "These were all guys that I'd paid to see in concert, you know?" Benny said, "Half of me was scared to death and half of me said, well this is what you've always wanted, so toughen up and do it."
Mardones started making a real name for himself as a performer touring with Richie Havens, including an outdoor rally on Wall Street in front of 100,000 people. He caught the eye of concert promoter Ron Delsener who was quite impressed by Benny's voice. A few weeks later he received a call from Delsener to ask him if he could fill in for a last-minute cancellation. Amazingly, Benny soon discovered he was opening for Peter Frampton at Madison Square Garden.
It was in 1980 when Benny starting writing with Robert Tepper and got signed to Polydor, where “Into The Night” was born. Once the record was released, it became an instant radio classic across the country and to this day is one of the most frequently played tunes in radio history. It is estimated that the song has been played more than 8 Million times in the US alone. Benny appeared on The Toni Tennille Show, American Bandstand, & Midnight Special, and Merv Griffin Show, sitting along side and being introduced by Kal Rudman of FMBQ (the bible for radio programmers). A fearless & feisty Benny Mardones presented his challenge to step into the boxing ring with Elvis Costello, who was also breaking big at the time, and Benny said to millions of people watching the show, "There is only one Elvis and if he loses the fight, he has to change his first name to Lou."
A Syracuse radio station heard Benny was living in town at that time and wanted him to do a concert appearance. The promoter called and said “We'll pay you $8,000.” He thought to himself, “What’s happening here? Am I opening for The Beatles?” Just a few days before the show, he casually asked the promoter, “By the way, who am I opening for?” The answer from the promoter was, “Nobody - YOU are the head-liner! Don’t you know that the biggest radio station in Syracuse has been playing ‘Into The Night’ and other cuts from your album? Thank you to Tom Mitchell, Program Director, everybody in Syracuse wants to hear more of your music and see you live and in-person.” Benny stepped onto the stage that night and saw a capacity crowd of 12,000 people and it absolutely overwhelmed him. In the middle of his first song, he broke down and started to cry; he literally had to leave the stage. “The crowd saw my emotional breakdown, and it only inspired them to start chanting my name. From that day on, my tour dates began and ended in Central New York."
Syracuse's adopted son was so grateful for this opportunity that he now felt he had to give something back. He continued to pursue his lifelong commitment to help children’s causes. Mardones and his band, The Hurricanes, raised literally thousands of dollars for children's liver transplant operations, Ronald McDonald House, T.J. Martell Foundation, LA Breast Cancer Awareness, and was presented with an award from the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of Central New York.
Jerry Kraus, of WOUR radio, the best rock music station in Utica, NY, reminisced that when Benny performed to a sold-out house in Central New York, “It was almost like it was a cult following. He was just the ultimate showman - he could walk into a room and make friends with everybody instantly, had a smile that would light up the room and the gift of gab to go along with it.”
Benny said "It took me a few years after that to come out of the fog and realize that I was hooked on drugs, had blown through my million dollar fortune, alienated everyone that was ever close to me, and had done all the wrong things. But out of all this turmoil, the smoke cleared for a moment, and a little boy was born, my son Michael. I made a pact with the man upstairs and declared, just let me be around to raise this little guy, and I'll never go down that road again.”
In 1989, "Into The Night" was re-released for the second time after a "Where Are They Now?" feature on KZZP played the record and the phones blew up; which led to renewed interest in the song from young listeners hearing it for the first time. The legendary influential program director Scott Shannon, Pirate Radio, added it to his play-list and radio stations across the country followed suit.
"I was in Woodstock living with my son in a friend's attic that I had turned into a little apartment," Benny remembers, "When unbeknownst to me, my original mentor, Joel Diamond, contacted Mike Curb and let him know that there had been a resurgence of “Into The Night” and it might just be a win-win for Curb Records to sign Mardones and re-record his original hit one more time to catch the new wave of radio success. Within days, Benny found himself in Los Angeles cutting an entire album for Curb, with Michael Lloyd producing and Diamond Executive Producing.
As a result of “Into The Night” hitting the charts one more time, it catapulted Benny into the elite stratosphere of becoming one of only eight artists, joining the ranks of Queen, Righteous Brothers, Chubby Checker, The Contours, The Four Seasons, Ben E. King, and Neil Sedaka, to ever ascend to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice with the same song.
It was in 2000 when Benny's life took a dramatic downturn when he was sadly diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Even in spite his illness, he continued to play to sold-out crowds in central New York up until just a few years ago. He was asked to be a guest speaker at Canajoharie High School, upstate NY, where he spoke to students about his experience of bursting into fame after many years of hard work in the music industry. He also spoke about succumbing to drug addiction, his battle to overcome Parkinson’s disease, and the resurrection of his career in upstate New York. He received mulitple standing ovations and concluded with: “Follow your dreams, because this is still a country where you can make your dreams come true.”
Cut to the third & final chapter of “Into The Night”. In 2019, 2x Grammy & Multi Platinum record producer Joel Diamond, stepped back into the role of Benny’s producer and told Benny that he now had the opportunity to create music history by re-cutting “Into The Night” one more time. Diamond knew that to make the charts again, he needed to come at it from a whole new direction. He brought on board music arranger Ted Perlman to do the music for the new and updated ballad version, and Brad LeBeau of ProMotion, to promote Benny’s new Dance Club Remixes by Dirty Werk and Eric Kupper, who have re-mixed 20 #1 Club Hits including Ariana Grande, Diana Ross, Pink, Miley Cirus, and Janet Jackson. This resulted in "Into The Night 2019" charting in Billboard for its third time.
Also in January 2020, Rudy Perez, 5x Grammy Award winner & Billboard Producer of the Decade, wrote a Spanish lyric and actually performed "Into The Night 2019" as a Spanglish duet with Benny, produced by Perez & Diamond.
Benny is now memorialized in the history books of Billboard Magazine for having the: Same Song, Different Recordings, Different Labels, Different Decades, & Different Centuries charted 3 different times.
"Life has a beginning and an end for all of us, but one thing that will always be said of Benny Mardones is that he definitely squeezed the tube-of-life completely dry", said Joel Diamond.
Published in The Daily Times on Jun. 29, 2020.