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Arlon Bennett

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Arlon Bennett's songs have been compared to the paintings of Norman Rockwell, and that is an accurate analogy; many of the folk-rock songs that Bennett has written could easily be described as musical vignettes that vividly depict American life, past and present. The East Coast singer/songwriter's subject matter has ranged from Vietnam veterans ("Bandanna Man") to the late sportscaster/baseball historian Bob Murphy (who passed away in 2004) to married couples who have managed to stay together for 40 or 50 years, and Bennett's songs — much like Rockwell's paintings — have often had a strong sense of Americana. Even when he sang about Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi on his song "Be the Change," there was an element of Americana in his work: Bennett's song noted the parallels between Gandhi's struggles in India and the civil rights contributions of Rosa Parks in the United States. Although Bennett has recorded in the '90s and the 21st century, much of his musical inspiration has come from the folk-rock and soft rock artists of the '60s and '70s; Harry Chapin, James Taylor (the person who married Carly Simon, not J.T. Taylor of Kool & the Gang fame), Cat Stevens, Don McLean, Neil Young, and Jim Croce are among the singer/songwriters who have influenced Bennett. At times, Bennett has incorporated light country (sounding a bit Willie Nelson-ish on occasion) or jazz (showing some appreciation of Van Morrison), but folk-rock has been the primary direction of the guitar-playing Bennett (who has tended to favor a good-natured, unassuming vocal style).

Bennett was born and raised in the Long Island suburbs of New York City, where he listened to '60s and '70s singer/songwriters extensively as a teenager. But Bennett did not major in music when he got to college; attending Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, in the late '70s and early '80s, Bennett studied math and computer science — and he ended up earning a very good living in the information technology field after moving back to the East Coast. Nonetheless, Bennett pursued music on the side in the '90s and early 2000s, spending much of his free time writing songs and performing live. Bennett participated in a long list of singer/songwriter competitions (he was a finalist in the New Folk competition in Kerrville, TX, in 1999 and a winner in the competition for the New Jersey Folk Festival in 2001), and he released his first album, Fountain of Dreams, in 1998. That disc was followed by his second album, The Watch Man, in 2001. Two years later, Bennett made a brave decision: he quit a high-paying information technology/software development job to be a full-time singer/songwriter. In 2007, Bennett (who was 47 that year) released his third album, Summer's Voice, on his own label, Red Sea Records. Although dominated by original material, Summer's Voice included a cover of Johnny Cash's "Straight A's in Love."