Ode to Joe

A young lady from Bustleton uses her voice to take aim at Joe Pa­ter­no’s killer

This is sing­er/lyr­i­cist Becky Dadi from Bustleton and col­lab­or­at­or/pro­du­cer Mi­chael Bi­hovsky


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.” ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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