Billie Jo Bennett - May 12, 1968 - March 11, 2012
In 1976 I was eleven years old, Billie Jo was just eight years old but there was magic in the air. Many of our friends and family know our story well. If you will follow the words to the eighty eight songs written by her and I, you will hear a story. Collectively it is the song of our lives together, written over the years of our friendship and eventual twenty five year marriage. The words to these songs are so true. Love and life are priceless gifts that we must cherish every day. The incomparable loss that I feel now that she has passed on, serves as a daily reminder for me to give thanks every minute of every day for all that I have been blessed with in this life... past, present and future. So...who are Eddie and Billie Jo Bennett and what is the fairy-tale-like story of their lives?
We were just kids when we met. Every Saturday night in Waretown NJ, there was a gathering of folk and bluegrass musicians at a place called “Albert Hall”. It was named after Joe and George Albert who started the get togethers at their hunting cabin way back in the Pinelands of New Jersey. When the weekly crowd grew too large for the cabin it eventually moved to an old auction building just up the road where from that time all the way to present day, there was music and eventually stage shows every Saturday night. “The Sounds of the Jersey Pines” was what the make shift sign read out front. I played with my Dad and my brother and Billie Jo played with her Dad and her sister. Right away, as I recall she would make every attempt to be near us and watch intently as I went on stage. I remember often times at the end of the night when it was time to put my mandolin back in its case, I opened it up and I would find little love notes and bubble gum in my case.... she was so adorable. Soon we formed a kids bluegrass band with Billie Jo, her sister Kellie, our friend Glenn Borsuk and myself....We were so clever in creating a name for our band....we were called “ Eddie and Company”. Genius wouldn’t you say?
Billie Jo and I were married just two weeks after she graduated high school. On our first anniversary Billie Jo was nine months pregnant. On our second anniversary Billie Jo was nine months pregnant. We skipped our third anniversary and she was seven months pregnant on our fourth anniversary. Ha! So, I tell you this so that you might get a picture of a very young family raising children and paying bills and all the good stuff that goes along with that experience. Looking back I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I see now that the unique experiences that make up the beauty of our lives are exactly the catalyst necessary for the emotions that bring out the best songs. The first song we wrote together was a gospel song titled “Holy One” in 1986 right after we got married. When I say we wrote eighty eight songs together, I mean that some were written by Billie Jo, some were written by me and some were written together but in the end we collaborated together on their final version. Our songs were written specifically for us to sing together and upon their completion they were as successful as they needed to be for us. Together, we put our eternal heart and soul into all of our music! The very first song I wrote for Billie Jo was in 1986. She had asked me why I have never written a song specifically for her so I sat down and in about fifteen minutes I put my feelings down on paper. It was titled “Made In Heaven”. Listen to the words of that song to get a clear picture of our lives together.
Sadly we never made the time to go to a music studio to create a professional recording so the songs you will hear on our CD’s are all live recordings of our music at various locations throughout the years. You will hear missed chords, missed notes, missed words, out of tune instruments and lots of other miscues that would naturally be corrected on a professional recording but these are all I have left of her and I am so thankful to at least have these. So many of our friends and family have requested these CD’s that I am happy to release them just as they are.
As I listen to these CD’s more and more I realize that Billie Jo carried me for a lifetime because I was not blessed with the greatest singing voice.... but she more than compensates with the voice of an Angel....and she was stuck with me because I wrote a lot of songs that she loved to sing! In all my life I have never heard anyone sing live, that sounds like Billie Jo.... with the possible exception of Miss Dolly Parton or our friend Alison Krauss. When Billie Jo was home and nine months pregnant with our youngest son, Alison was nice enough to sing with me at my request and of course Billie Jo was so jealous.... Alison’s Angelic voice is well known but I truly believe when the world hears Billie Jo’s rendition of some of our music, she will then see from her Heavenly home that she had nothing to be jealous about!...But Billie Jo always loved Alison too!
On January 5, 2001 I received a visit from a local police officer in the town I was working in telling me that Billie Jo had been injured at work. She had fallen down a flight of concrete steps. She was still alive but severely injured. I rushed to the hospital to find that her back and neck had sustained serious ruptured discs. She was not paralyzed but would be affected by this for the rest of her life. For the next eleven years there was not a single day that went by that I did not hear my Beautiful Best Friend whimper or cry out loud that she was in pain. I cannot explain in words the pain I felt in my heart watching her confront this daily regimen of back and neck pain. There were five operations that followed in an attempt to relieve her of the pain she was in but none of them were successful. As a matter of fact, an operation to try to correct the injury to her neck resulted in the loss of her voice! As I understand it, one of her vocal cords was damaged or cut during the operation leaving Billie Jo with the ability to only whisper! For more than a year she could not sing or even talk a single word! Can you even begin to imagine the affect this had on our lives? The tragedy, the heartache, the pain, the loss! Finally after more than a year there was a second operation where a surgical implant allowed Billie Jo the use of one vocal cord! It was a miracle that we were so grateful for. She was able to sing again!
It was eventually the complications from this injury and its ensuing treatment that caused her to be called home on March 11, 2012. I am torn between the indescribable pain of losing my Best Friend and the joy of having known true love in every sense of the word while she was here. For those of us that were blessed with the opportunity to know Billie Jo during her relatively short life, we cannot help but remember the joy, laughter and beauty of her precious soul. If you did not know her, please close your eyes and listen to her sing one of the songs I wrote which is now my favorite song that she sang.... “One Lifetime”. Simply close your eyes and listen... I trust you will be able to sense the inner beauty that I knew and wrote about for a lifetime! Billie Jo was my Best Friend and I miss her every day!
I want to thank you all for taking the time to visit our web site and learn about our charity in Billie Jo’s name. You can find a link to a page about our charity and what we do, and how we carry on the beauty of Billie Jo’s talent on our home page. Please spread the word to your friends and family and help us remember the Angel that was my Beautiful Best Friend...Billie Jo Bennett!
I Love You Billie Jo.
-Eddie Bennett, 2012
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