Singing after World Trade Center brings fame to New York cop; now he's got a record

Thursday, December 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ He's become the voice of New York's grief and strength since Sept. 11 _ a voice heard around the world.

And now Daniel Rodriguez, the ``singing cop,'' has a record.

This week, EMI's new Manhattan Records label released Rodriguez's first single, a rendition of ``God Bless America.''

``While the storm clouds gather, far across the sea, let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,'' says Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an opera fan and enthusiastic booster of Rodriguez, in a recorded introduction to the single.

The 37-year-old tenor is among a half-dozen police officers who sing at city functions _ but he's catapulted to the most prominence.

Since the terrorist attacks, he has performed at a Yankee Stadium prayer service, a World Series baseball game, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center _ all of which got TV exposure nationally. He's appeared on television in Brazil, South Korea, Canada and England, and he helped open the Carnegie Hall season this fall, performing with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Three EMI publicists help him handle his newfound fame, which includes guest spots on ``Late Show with David Letterman'' and ``Good Morning America.''

The truth, he admits, is ``I'm a ham.''

His biggest break came two months ago at the Yankee Stadium memorial service, where Rodriguez met Placido Domingo. When the famed tenor gave the officer a thumbs-up after his performance, Rodriguez seized the moment and asked Domingo for an audition.

The audition impressed Domingo enough to invite Rodriguez to spend three months training at the Washington Opera, where Domingo is artistic director. Rodriguez, who joined the NYPD in 1995, will take a leave of absence starting in March.

``He has a great pair of vocal cords from nature,'' Domingo said from Milan, Italy, where he was singing at the La Scala opera house. ``What is needed now is to train and refine the voice.''

Rodriguez also has a deal with EMI to record a full CD of Broadway tunes, set for release in February.

All of this is a boyhood dream come true for him. He began singing at age 12, inspired by the late Mario Lanza, and was later nurtured by his voice teachers.

But as an adult with a wife and two children to support, Rodriguez became a police officer.

A year ago, he married again, proposing to his wife during a performance by singing Lanza's ``Be My Love.''

Proceeds from Rodriguez's new CD will go to the Twin Towers Fund that benefits families of uniformed officers who died in the attack.

Watching the World Trade Center's twin towers collapse ``didn't make me sing any better,'' Rodriguez said. ``But the passion for the music has changed, and for what I represent _ the comfort and the feeling of national pride that I bring now more than I did before.''