Victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse are getting help from an unexpected source: rock 'n' roll road warriors.
"I tour the country for a living and go over bridges and overpasses hundreds of times a day," Los Angeles-based retro-rock guitarist Deke Dickerson said. "I've been over that very bridge dozens of times."
He's one of a whopping 57 rock, country, blues and world-music acts to donate rare or unreleased tracks for a three-disc benefit CD, "Musicians for Minneapolis," hitting stores statewide this month. Most of the participants perform regularly in Minnesota, including Los Lobos, Steve Vai, Dick Dale, Les Claypool, Beausoleil, Jim Lauderdale, Sparklehorse and Lee Scratch Perry.
Los Lobos "considers the Twin Cities one of our absolute favorite places," keyboardist Steve Berlin writes in the box set.
The CDs were produced by Electro-Voice, a Burnsville-based company that makes microphones and speaker equipment. "The day after the tragedy, we got phone calls and e-mails from our artists across the country asking if we were all safe," recalled James Edlund, the company's artist relations manager. "Their next question was: 'How can we help?'"
The disc also includes a few Minnesota artists who work with the company, including the Vibro Champs, Willie Wisely and -- featured with his old group the Stray Cats -- recent Minneapolis transplant Brian Setzer.
For haste's sake, the artists were asked to donate a song they already had in the can, but Coon Rapids-based country singer Rockie Lynne said he "couldn't help" but write an original song about the tragedy. It became the set's lead-off track, "The Chance to Say Goodbye."
"Imagine going off to work and never coming home/ Kissing your family, then leaving them alone through no fault of your own," sings Lynne. He goes on to reference specific victims such as a delivery truck driver and a mother with her son.
"Songwriting is like farming," Lynne said. "You can put in a lot of hard work, but you can't make it rain. With this song, it rained right away, probably because I was so saddened that a tragedy like that could take place right where I live."
A $100,000 goal
"Musicians for Minneapolis" is already on sale at Twin Cities independent record stores such as Cheapo Discs and the Electric Fetus, as well as online retailer CDBaby.com. Best Buy stores statewide and metro-area Target stores should get it later this week. Many clubs and music stores also will carry it.
All proceeds will go to the Minnesota Helps -- Bridge Disaster Fund. Electro-Voice hopes to sell out of the first pressing of 5,000 copies -- and raise $100,000 -- in time for the Aug. 1 anniversary of the collapse.
It's just the latest contribution from a musical community that has staged a series of benefit concerts at Twin Cities clubs such as the Fine Line, Famous Dave's Uptown and 7th Street Entry, on down to coffee-shop gigs. Minneapolis hip-hop stars Atmosphere also pitched in by adding a $1 online fee to tickets for their fall national tour.
"The arts community and individual artists have been very creative in their efforts to help," said Christelle Langer, vice president of communications for the Minneapolis Foundation, which administers the Minnesota Helps fund. The new CD "is another great example of an individual or, in this case, a company using whatever resources they have at hand to help these families."
So far the fund has received $1.2 million and distributed about $468,000 to survivors and victims' families.
Many of these recipients are waiting for more help from the Legislature. A House committee Thursday gave its approval to a proposal modeled on the Sept. 11 victims fund created by Congress. A companion bill in the Senate is expected soon.
The state set up an emergency fund for victims in November, but it contains only $1 million to help cover lost wages, while the proposed compensation fund would have $30 million to $60 million, according to the House sponsor, Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.
"Their needs probably aren't going to go away," said Lynne, who performed at a benefit concert at Elko Speedway last year. "Hopefully, these CDs are something that can be around for a while to help them out."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658