Rebecca “Becky” Dadi never attended Penn State University. She’s still a high school student, after all.
Nor is she trying to defend Joe Paterno for what he did or failed to do in response to child-molestation allegations against his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
But Dadi is very much concerned about cancer. She wants to perpetuate hope for families coping with the frightening, debilitating and often fatal illness. And since Jan. 22, her inspirational words on the subject have reached tens of thousands of people via YouTube.
Dadi, a Bustleton resident and senior at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, performs the original song Let me tell you … (You’re OK) on a three-minute Paterno tribute video co-produced last month by two Penn State undergrads, Andrew Porter and Ryan Murray.
In addition to more than 150,000 YouTube “hits,” Joe Paterno: Legends Never Die has drawn more than 300 viewer comments — some supportive of the former head coach, some critical of him, and many complimentary of Dadi’s contribution to the project.
“The connection for me was the cancer,” Dadi told the Northeast Times recently. “I want people to know that you can fight so hard and there is help.”
Dadi knows all about cancer firsthand.
She wrote and recorded her ballad last summer in collaboration with her voice instructor, 2005 Barrack graduate Michael Bihovsky, as a musical letter to her ailing grandmother Linda Carlton, who passed away in September following a decades-long fight with breast cancer.
In November, doctors diagnosed Paterno with lung cancer. As a personal friend of Dadi’s, Porter asked her if he could use the song as the soundtrack for his Paterno tribute. She agreed.
Paterno died Jan. 22 of complications related to his cancer treatments. Dadi recognized parallels between the 85-year-old former coach and her “mom-mom” who died at age 64 after repeated bouts with the disease over 20 years.
“She never gave up. She was the strongest person ever,” Dadi said.
Carlton’s initial diagnosis pre-dated Dadi, who recently turned 18. But illness never stopped Carlton from being an active, enthusiastic and inspirational part of her granddaughter’s life.
“She’s the one who inspired me to write and sing and stuff,” Dadi said. “Since I was little, we would sing together. She loved poetry and got me into poetry. That’s how I started writing songs.
“I would be such a different person today if I never met her. She is such a huge part of who I am.”
Carlton had been in remission after years of on-again, off-again treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. But this time, her condition worsened rapidly.
To cope, Dadi reflected upon some old poems that she had penned about her grandmom and recorded in a personal journal.
“I thought, ‘What better way to make her proud and give her hope and strength than to write a song?’” Dadi recalled. “It originally was four different (poems), all written for her. I took these four from all different periods of time and just put them together.”
She had a tune in her head, but not a composer. So she turned to Bihovsky, her voice instructor, for help.
“I brought him my book and said I really want to record this song for her,” Dadi said.
“It took about one or two classes to get the music down and four hours in the studio (to record). I burned it onto a CD and gave it to her. She listened to it and showed it to every doctor and nurse in the room. She was so proud of it.”
Dadi has sympathy for Paterno and empathy for those who supported him before and after the Sandusky scandal.
“People really turned their backs on (Paterno). He definitely donated a lot of his time and money. People turned their backs so quickly without being in his (shoes),” she said.
Dadi is trying to make something good out of the situation. Although an edited version of the song is available for download on Porter’s blog for Philly-based Penn Staters, theschoolphilly.com, Dadi plans to market the full version via iTunes with all proceeds being donated to cancer charities.
Meanwhile, response to the song has convinced her to pursue a new career path.
“I never had a lot of confidence, but after so many people saw the video, it inspired me and I applied for Berklee College of Music in Boston,” Dadi said. “Wherever I go, I’m going to pursue music because I know music helps me through everything.” ••EndFragment