jellybean

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez

Was he just a “Jingo” or “Just A Mirage” or just “The Real Thing”? Call him John or Jellybean, who found who?

John Benitez was born in New York in 1957 and we can thank/blame his sister for giving him the nickname ‘Jellybean’! From a young age in the 1970’s, he was playing music at friends party’s and later in clubs, working his way up through the ranks to eventually land spots and landmark establishments like Le Jardin and Studio 54. Through his following and influence, he was able to promote bands and artists, making hits out of “Planet Rock” for Afrika Bambaataa in 1982 and “Let The Music Play” for Shannon in 1983. It was that same year that he was introduced to a dancer by the name of Madonna Ciccone. She was developing her own music and recording her first album, which ‘Jellybean’ would stamp his mark on, most notably the singles “Holiday”, “Lucky Star” and “Borderline”.

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Madonna broke out in 1984 and ‘Jellybean’s sound was now commercial. That same year, he released his very first single, “The Mexican”, which would top the US dance chart and was followed by as second, “Sidewalk Talk”, which would crack the singles chart at No.18. ‘Jellybean’ and Madonna found themselves at the very top of the chart at the end of the year with “Crazy For You”, the song arguably still regarded as her very best ever and he continued to work with her sound for her second album, “Like A Virgin”, the following year. Now very much in demand, ‘Jellybean’ himself was also commissioned by the likes of David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Michael Jackson to mix and produced their songs and in 1987, he produced “Love Will Save The Day” for Whitney Houston’s second long player. His own music career went international later in 1987 with a string of singles that would feature on his album, “Just Visiting This Planet”.

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“The Real Thing”, with newbie British single Steven Dante, was the first of these, peaking at No.13 in the UK and giving ‘Jellybean’ a third US dance chart number one. He would attain a second US top twenty hit with “Who Found Who?” (UK No.10) with singer Elisa Fiorillo on vocals and two further UK top twenty hits with “Jingo” and “Just A Mirage”, with Adele Bertei into 1988, registering a total of eight US dance chart top ten hits by 1991, which included “Coming Back For More”, with Living In A Box‘s Richard Darbyshire and “What’s It Gonna Be?” with Niki Harris, who would find great fame as the singer with German dance act Snap and provide backing vocals for Madonna on many of her world tours. As the 80’s turned into the 90’s, ‘Jellybean’ continued to write and produced hits for Sheena Easton, Billy Idol, Paul McCartney as well as working on the soundtracks to many a classic film from ‘Back To The Future’ to ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘Footloose’ and ‘Krush Groove’, for which he wrote the song, “Feel The Spin”, for Blondie’s Debbie Harry.

As his own music career died down in the mid-1990’s, he continued to produced and promote new artists through his own record company, HOLA Recordings and after more than a decade, he returned to the decks in clubland in 2001 at New York’s The Loft. In 2005, he was inducted to the Dance Music Hall of Fame and celebrated with releasing the singles “New York House” in 2006 and “Secrets And Lies” in 2008, his first commercially releases for over ten years. ‘Jellybean’ has been an executive producer at Studio54 Radio since 2011 and promotes classic disco, pop and dance anthems of the 1970’s and 80’s from his own personal collection of mixes and tracks from an extensive collection from such memorable classic as “The Power Of Love” (Huey Lewis and The News), “Love Is A Battlefield” (Pat Benetar), “Holding Out for A Hero” (Bonnie Tyler), “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, “Jump (For My Love)” and, of course, a few Madonna classics!

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Take a look at our other Where Are They Now? posts or find out more here.