One of the finest remixers and producers during the post-disco days of the 1980s, Jellybean worked with many pop stars during the decade. Born in the South Bronx in 1959, John Benitez was collecting records from an early age; after he attended a nearby disco club called the Sanctuary in the mid-’70s, he became immersed in the growing disco scene and soon became one its best DJs as well as an early producer with his own reel-to-reel machine. After appearances at the clubs Experiment 4 and Xenon, Benitez moved on to such prestigious showplaces as Studio 54 and the Electric Circus. With the dawn of the ’80s (and the death of disco), he continued DJing with a residency at Manhattan’s Fun House (beginning in 1981), and also hosted a dance show on New York’s WKTU.
Jellybean’s burgeoning production and remix career went into full gear during 1981-82; he reworked seminal tracks from Rockers Revenge, the Jimmy Spicer Bunch and Afrika Bambaataa, then watched as two of his remixes from 1983’s Flashdance soundtrack (“Flashdance” and “Maniac”) became sizeable hits. Madonna, an early club regular who admired Benitez for his DJing as well as his production skills, drafted him to write and produce a track for her debut album later in 1983. Their collaboration “Holiday” became her first hit, and Madonna returned the favor by co-writing another Top 20 hit for Jellybean, “Sidewalk Talk” from his 1984 EP Wotupski!!?! His 1987 debut album Just Visiting This Planet featured Jellybean in his usual production role though his name appeared on the sleeve; despite the mainly unknown guest vocalists, the single “Who Found Who” with Elisa Fiorillobecame another Top 20 hit. His second album, 1988’s Jellybean Rocks the House, was a much tighter affair though it featured no hits.
Though his solo career took precedence, Jellybean spent more time during the late ’80s working on remixes and productions for other pop stars, including Sting, Whitney Houston, Eurythmics, Debbie Harry, Sheena Easton, Book of Love and Debbie Gibson. Though he released his third album in 1991 (Spillin’ the Beans), Benitez kept to a low profile for the most part during the 1990s, doing consistent remix and production work. In 1995, he founded H.O.L.A. Recordings (Home of Latino Artists) for Latin-dance releases.