Elliman Cares: Love Rocks NYC Cofounder Greg Williamson on the Unifying Power of Music

By Grace Cassidy

Growing up in Brooklyn Heights, Greg Williamson had a front-row seat to the residential real estate business. His mother, Madeline Williamson, was once Douglas Elliman’s top-selling broker in the borough and inspired her son to follow in her footsteps. “She taught me everything I know about the business,” says Williamson, who has consistently ranked among the top 1% of brokers in the nation since beginning his career 17 years ago.

Greg Williamson
Greg Williamson

In addition to being a successful real estate agent, Williamson has dedicated his time and energy to charitable and philanthropic pursuits—primarily through the nonprofit God’s Love We Deliver, which prepares and delivers free medically tailored meals to people who are too sick to provide for themselves. He began working with God’s Love 10 years ago, and in 2017, he deepened his involvement with the organization by cofounding Love Rocks NYC, a marquee annual benefit concert that has raised more than $20 million to date.

The sixth annual event will be held March 10 at the Beacon Theatre and feature performances by Keith Richards & The X-Pensive Winos, Mavis Staples, Melissa Etheridge and Hozier, among other musical acts. Elliman Insider spoke with Williamson in the run-up to the show about his history with God’s Love, pursuing passions beyond real estate and making good on his goal “to unite people through the power of music, to help New Yorkers in need and to have a bad ass annual rock ‘n’ roll concert.”

EI: What made you want to get involved with God’s Love We Deliver?

GW: After my wife and I got married, we looked for a charitable organization to get involved with—and ideally to grow with. We visited numerous nonprofit organizations, and God’s Love We Deliver, with its mission of feeding people who are too sick to cook or shop for themselves, resonated with us most. We had both lost parents who struggled with eating and nourishment towards the end of their lives, and God’s Love was keeping people alive with medically tailored meals. It instantly hit home. It has now been 10 years of being involved with God’s Love, and my association with the organization has changed my life in ways I never could have imagined.

Williamson with Martin Short (Photo: Kim Mancuso)

EI: What inspired you to start Love Rocks NYC?

GW: I was a few years into my journey with God’s Love—I had joined the Board of Trustees, and my wife was on the Board of Directors—and I wanted to take my involvement to the next level. I had also recently quit drinking, and I felt a strong desire to pursue passions beyond real estate.

Music has always been in my DNA, and I have been seeing and listening to music since I was a young kid. So, having dabbled in a few smaller productions and really having no idea what I was doing or getting into, I had the crazy idea to build one of the biggest benefit concerts in New York City—and to do it at the iconic Beacon Theatre. Of course, the beneficiary was going to be God’s Love We Deliver because we loved the organization. They already had a great reputation, and I had a feeling that the cause was one that both sponsors and artists would want to get behind.

Williamson with Bill Murray and Pedrito Martinez. (Photo: Kim Mancuso)

EI: Starting an annual event of this scale is no small feat! What was that experience like? 

It was difficult and daunting, to say the least. Everyone in the music business told me to quit while I was ahead. They all commended me for the idea and appreciated my determination and passion to give back, but they explained that the idea was one that was highly unlikely to succeed. Everyone referenced how uncommon it is to see a successful benefit concert—meaning one that makes money for the charity and continually has artists donate their time—year after year.

I didn’t give up or take no for an answer, but I knew there was no way this was happening without partners. My first call was to global events producer and family friend Nicole Rechter (with whom I now have a music production company called RWE Partners). My second meeting, which took several months to schedule, was with the fashion designer John Varvatos. John’s brand is steeped in rock ‘n’ roll, and I knew he had deep connections to artists and people in the music business. I also must give major credit to the folks at God’s Love and our music director, Will Lee. Without their passion, partnership and trust, the project would never have gotten off the ground.

Six years later, we have raised over $20 million and funded over two million meals for New Yorkers in need. The list of musicians and actors that have played Love Rocks NYC is astounding. The amount of press that the concert has garnered for the charity, especially a local charity, is unprecedented. All the stars aligned, and it has truly become one of the most anticipated concerts across the country.

It’s proof that when you have the right intentions and surround yourself with smart and kindhearted people, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can accomplish and the impact you can have.

Learn more about God’s Love We Deliver and Love Rocks NYC.

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