Monday 19 February 2018

'Ben's smile changed the world' - Christy Dignam helps release charity single for Batman Ben

Ben Farrell with his mother Valarie in June. Photo: Damien Eagers
Ben Farrell with his mother Valarie in June. Photo: Damien Eagers
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A charity single will be released in honour of little Ben 'Batman' Farrell (5) who passed away from cancer earlier this year.

Christy Dignam from Aslan, helped release the charity single, which is sung by his daughter Kiera Dignam.

A reproduction of the Song “Ben”, written by Don Black and made famous by Michael Jackson will be re-released by Kiera Dignam in Memory of Batman Ben on Friday October 28.

The brave five-year-old captured the hearts of the nation as he battled a rare form of cancer which he was diagnosed with on Christmas Eve 2015.

Ben Farrell with his mum Valerie
Ben Farrell with his mum Valerie

His parents Valerie and Alan, from Lanesborough in Finglas, brought him to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Michigan for specialist treatment which wasn’t available in Ireland after a massive fundraising campaign. Sadly Ben passed away before the treatment in the US started.

The single will be sold for €5 on CD and €1.29 on iTunes, with all proceeds going to two charities that supported Ben and his family: The Gavin Glynn Foundation and Aoibheann's Pink Tie.

Ben’s mother Val Farrell hopes the proceeds will help towards finding a cure one day for this awful disease.

Filled with emotion, she explains how Ben loved this song: “When Kiera told us she had been working on possibly releasing a single for Ben, I thought how lovely, what a great idea – but when she told me the song was 'Ben' by Michael Jackson I cried.

Christy Dignam with his daughter Kiara
Christy Dignam with his daughter Kiara

"Through Ben we hope to find the strength to continue. We hope to continue to be inspired to live as fully as he did and we hope to continue to allow Ben's smile to change the world for the better.... we hope to make him proud.”

Touched by Ben’s story, Stephen Browne, a music promoter from Ben’s hometown in Finglas came up with the idea for the single.

Five-year-old Ben Farrell
Five-year-old Ben Farrell

The song's royalty fees were kindly waived by song writer Don Black, Kiera Dignam, daughter of Aslan’s Christy Dignam, was happy to lend her amazing voice to the cause, artwork was provided free of charge by and the cost of the recording and production was provided through a grant from eBay Ireland’s Global Impact Team.

Stephen said: “Like most people hearing the heart-breaking story of Ben, I just wanted to help. When the idea for the song came to me I decided to chance my arm and contact Don Black not really expecting a reply.

"To my surprise, I received a reply within an hour from Don not only offering his support but he had also made contact with Sony to get the process moving. What a kind man.”

The award-winning songwriter Don Black, who had originally offered this popular song first to Donny Osmond before Michael Jackson turned it into a smash hit, says he is thrilled with this new recording of the Oscar-nominated single.

“I do love this version of the song, it's a terrific vocal,” he says. I’m so upset to hear this sad news, this is a truly heart-breaking story and I send my condolences to all the family.”

The legendary Christy Dignam of Aslan fame was by Kiera’s side at the studio to help and offer his guidance and the track was produced and recoded by Stuart Gray, a multi-talented musician who has worked with Hozier, Ryan Sheridan and Brian Kennedy, to name a few.

Kiera said: “Ben by Michael Jackson seemed to be the perfect song and I then found out Ben had it on his iPad and loved the song, which sealed it for me that this defiantly had to be the song.

"Recording it, I wanted to strip it back and just have my vocal not overly produced with loads of backing vocals. I wanted it simple with nice guitar and strings. The producer Stewart listened to what I wanted and was on the same wavelength and I'm delighted with the finished product.”

Kiera admits it was emotionally challenging to record the song because Ben had just died when they went into the studio to make it. It was, of course, all the more poignantly painful in light of her own father’s battle with an incurable cancer.

“By the time I got into the studio to put down my vocal, Ben had just passed away. So, what would have been a very difficult thing to do became a hundred times harder,” she reveals. But my aim was to do Ben's memory justice and to give his parents and family something they could listen to and think of Ben – and I hope it can be of some comfort to them.”

Kiera played the song earlier this week for Ben’s mother who was moved to tears when she heard it. Val sent a simple but touching text message to all those who chipped in: “It’s absolutely beautiful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The single is available from various outlets and Pre Order from iTunes.

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