As a teenager, John “Jellybean” Benitez was already a noted overachiever as one of the youngest of in-demand New York disc-jockeys at the peak of the disco era. Shortly thereafter, as a twenty-something, his career matched [and largely triggered] the improbable renaissance and cultural takeover of dance music in its successor forms of hip-hop, freestyle and house, blazing an unprecedented trail beyond the DJ’s turntables to creative and executive roles as music producer, composer, performer, film producer, label executive and industry mogul. His decades-long career in assembling the first multimedia empire based on early DJ success, bespeaks his other remarkable talents: innovation, imagination, entrepreneurship, adaptability and durability.
Jellybean has unerringly fused youth culture’s cutting edge to mass appeal, from his breakthrough days as an idolised master-mix DJ on New York radio and in Manhattan’s hottest clubs — drawing thousands of music-obsessed young and leaving them sweat-drenched on the massive dancefloor of the west side’s Fun House, feeling brand-new and ecstatically chanting, “Jellybean, rock the house!” — to the recording studio where he has produced musical newcomers, classic vocalists and superstars of the last three decades, to the composition of themes for hit television shows, to musical scores for Hollywood films—to the creation of his own publishing and production companies and record labels. This stellar and uniquely prolific catalog of achievement spans decades of artistic and technological change, since helping usher in the era of hip-hop with his remix work in “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force and “Action” by Orange Krush, shortly thereafter producing and publishing Madonna’s first pop crossover hit, “Holiday,” also co-producing and remixing the second, “Borderline,” as well as the third, “Lucky Star.”
Since moving with assurance between the DJ booth and studio console in the early 1980s, Benitez has produced and/or remixed over one hundred charted Top 10 pop hits and more than thirty-five #1 records, A glance at the credits listed under Jellybean Productions (launched in 1983) reveals a veritable “Who’s Who” of diverse musical talent that includes music legends of all genres such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Santana, Sting, Shakira, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Marc Anthony and Billy Joel.
Building on his game-changing impact as a studio producer, Benitez also won acclaim and further personal fame as a performer with his debut artist album Wotupski?! (EMI, 1984), which generated two number one dance hits, “The Mexican,” a classic revival from the birth of dance culture, and the newly-written “Sidewalk Talk” (which also charted in the top 10 of the Billboard 100 charts). Additional personal efforts included Spillin’ The Beans on Atlantic (1991) and the platinum selling 1987 international smash, Just Visiting The Planet, on Chrysalis, which launched four tracks into the U.K national singles chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, as well as the #1 Billboard Dance Single “Who Found Who” .
Through the mentorship and counsel of such friends and heroes of 20th Century pop music as Quincy Jones, Clive Davis, David Geffen and Jerry Wexler, among others, Benitez was prepared when his leadership of youth culture led repeatedly to diversifications of his business pursuits, as music proved itself a lynchpin element in lifestyle group identity, [and, eventually, global marketplace branding]. His music publishing company, Jellybean Music Group, was founded in 1984, and its song catalog now hits by such era- and genre-defining artists as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Notorious B.I.G., Nas, LL Cool J, Snap! And Black Eyed Peas, as well as the multi-platinum soundtracks of the top-grossing films Men In Black and Space Jam. Jellybean Music Publishing has to date achieved over 200 Top 100 hits and 4 Grammy Awards, its repertoire selling in excess of 80 million singles and albums, and these stats continue to grow by the year.
Benitez took his talent and business vision from the urban dance floor to the Hollywood soundstage, composing themes for hit TV programs including The Ricki Lake Show and PBS program American Family, and serving as music supervisor on a number of successful films such as Carlito’s Way and Species. Other film projects of note have included credits as music supervisor/composer and/or associate producer for such films as the sci-fi spoof and later-day collegiate fave Spaceballs! (Brooksfilms/M-G-M, 1987), Angel Eyes (Warner Bros., 2001, starring Jennifer Lopez), and Get Carter (Franchise/Warner Bros., starring Sylvester Stallone). He was executive producer, with long-time friend and collaborator John Leguizamo, of the Cinemax documentary Nuyorican Dream.He was also executive producer for the HBO Films 2001 biographical drama The Arturo Sandoval Story, depicting the life of the renowned Cuban trumpet player who defected to the United States and won music stardom. It earned a Golden Globe, four Emmy nominations, and a best producer Alma Award for Benitez.
three new music labels, Fuego Media, Jellybean Recordings and H.O.L.A. Associates, and subsidiary imprints such as Fuego, H.O.L.A., Jellybean Soul, Don Juan Media, and Devotion, all have continued Benitez’s string of #1 and top 10 Hits, blazing a new multicultural trail in the digital sales market. Underscoring the organic and still-brewing ferment of his decades-long musical path, Jellybean’s continuing slate of projects looks both backward and forward. He has kept the torch of authentic dance music burning in the new media space , drawing over 138K followers on Twitter, and co-launched in 2011, as an on-air DJ and executive producer, the “Studio 54” channel on the 21-million subscriber Sirius XM satellite radio network. He still DJs club gigs regularly, and his weekly syndicated mix show is broadcast and webcast on over 30 internet and satellite radio stations around the globe. To the present day,Jellybean continues to host and play to a rammed dance floor at the members-only monthly themed gathering , AIN’T NUTHIN’ BUT A HOUSE PARTY, in New York, Toronto, Los Angeles and St. Barths, now approaching its tenth anniversary.
Giving back to his industry and community since his early days of success, Benitez has served on the Board of Directors of the Archive of Contemporary Music, and as a trustee of the New York Chapter of NARAS, all for multiple years.