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Hope Floats: Denise Rich Gives Back

Denise Rich’s blood runs blue; in the music industry rank, she reigns supreme among song-writing royalties. Her body of work has been recorded by the very best, including Celine Dion, Marc Anthony, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Patti LaBelle, and Natalie Cole. She is on the board of The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, and through her New York City-based publishing company, Denise Rich Songs, she continues to produce music that transcends across boundaries—in four languages and in several genres.

Rich is also heralded as a pillar of support for the many paths she’s crossed. In fact, she’s laced the company with a management division that currently acts as a platform for young, talented writers across the country. “I write with them, and they also write a lot among each other,” she explains, in a slightly different intonation—one that illustrates her excitement for the future of their success.

And while Rich supports essential charity efforts of all kinds and sits on such boards as LIFEbeat (the music industry fights HIV/AIDs), the Interfaith Center of New York, among many others, her personal roots are dug deep in the charity she started in her daughter’s honor.

“Unfortunately, my middle daughter Gabrielle passed away at the age of 27 after a long struggle with leukemia,” Rich reveals. Her daughter had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was cured for three years before she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a cancer that forms in the bone marrow.

The bout with AML lasted only a few brief months, but Rich vividly recalls the doctors, the hospitals (including Sloan-Kettering and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center), and the trial-and-error treatments. But more importantly, she remembers all of Gabrielle’s idiosyncrasies in the hospital—endless hours on the computer researching statistics of causes of leukemia in young people, rocking out with headphones on, and skipping along to the music while she was still mobile. Even afterwards, Gabrielle visited the Hutch children’s ward in her wheelchair to spread hope to the young patients.

Indeed, Gabrielle’s spirit during those bleak days was an unbroken one. “She was an Oxford graduate, very smart, and at the same time, a real sportswoman—a skier and rock climber. She said when she got out [of the hospital] she was going to climb the building, stand at the top, and shout. She was that kind of spirit.”

And it’s that strength—that unwavering hope—Rich has promised to keep alive.

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014