The Flowing Waters of Lake Jefferson

Saturday November 17, 2007: Musicians coping with illness

Folk Plus is hosted and planned by Angela Page and airs Saturdays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on WJFF, at 90.5 fm in Jeffersonville, N.Y. and 94.5 in Monticello N.Y.
We are Hydro-Powered Public Radio and stream online at WWW.WJFFRADIO.ORG  Come see the station at our open house the first Saturday of every month.
Welcome new web listeners, especially those battling illness or who are housebound.
THANKS SO MUCH to the station management fo accommodating  my health issues which allow me to continue to volunteer Saturday mornings
and bring you the music that 'moves and sustains me. '

Today's show involves musicians who are coping with, or have coped with serious illness, yet continue to sing, tour and educate.
  Being as normal as possible while coping with illlness has defined much of my last three years and I am particularly impressed with folks that can continue creatively with such a struggle on their plate. Its been widely spoken about in the folk world that U. Utah Phillips has a week heart, running a blog and not touring. Roaseanne Cash is undergoing brain surgery, Pete Seeger has battled Lyme disease and Mary Travers battled lukemia necessitating a bone marrow transplant.I spent this week asking some performers if they would be willing to share publicly about their illness  and struggle and speak about the part that music played in their recovery if at all. 
Thanks to several DJs and musicians who responded with contacts and statements right up until early this morning.

1. Eric Hansen  was diagnosed in 1996 with a rare congenital lung disease. He continues to tour with only 38% lung function.  Eric lives in Tuscon, home of many with breathing issues. In fact, some places like Snowflake Arizona are solely inhabited by folks iwth chemical sensitivites, so that no neighbors will be using pesticides, tarring their driveways nor exhausting dryer sheets from laundry spouts.     On Erics website he says "let the healing begin with the sound of music"

Eric Hanson - This Too Shall Pass 3:20
Lover's Lullaby -

2. David M. Bailey: David is an 11-year survivor of a brain tumor that was predicted to kill him in 6 months.  He has 16 cds  of all original acoustic songs.  At a recent concert, one listener referred to him as part folk singer, part theologian, part therapist, part comedian, and all heart..." music:
suggested by Steve Jerrett    KOPN's Sunday Morning Coffeehouse - Columbia, MO

David says: " When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and told I had 6 months to live, it brought me back to my long abandoned music.   I resolved to spend the timeI had left doing what I loved and trying to share hope with others while doing so.   I did not expect that I would survive 11 years or that music would become my  full time career -- but both have happened.  Does music heal?  I don't know.  I do know that it helps you find your way through the dark. I'm on the way to dallas to play for the Society of Neuro-oncologists.....900 of them --  should be a great gig.

David Bailey -So Much More
Faith -   -

3. Kat Eggleston  Last night I wrote asking kat if shed like to be included and told her Waterbug label's Andrew Calhoun had suggested I play "One More Step"... she wrote back...

Angela, thank you so much for asking.  I'd love to be included in this.  Andrew was right, "One More Step" is the one I would pick.  it's the only song I wrote during the treatment and adjustment period after I got my diagnosis.I was extremely lucky and caught the cancer VERY early, and I'm conscious of how fortunate i am, but it turned out that it still scared the crap out of me, more than I even knew at the time.  I don't know how I handled it.  I think I'm handling it okay now.  Writing the song was great, and singing it now is even better.  All I could do was put one foot in front of the other, and decide not to turn into something I didn't like.  Once I was able to look around at all the people I love who were there for me, it was pretty easy.  I hope it'd be the same if cancer hit me harder than it did.  I hope I'm a better friend now than I used to be. 
I'm pretty sure I said it right when I wrote that song. I hope you're well, and really, thanks again for asking. I'm going to bed now. I'm in rehearsals now for Michael Smith's "Snow Queen" here in Chicago, it's several works of genius in one show, and happily exhausting to work on. Please keep in touch.  I really appreciate this.  It's good to focus on this stuff.  And by the way, it's been five years now.  Isn't that great?

Kat Eggleston - One More Step
The Only Word - Red Wing Music -

Danny Schmidt- cancer survivor. Danny wrote to me "I wrote this song in the midst of some health troubles. A friend of mine had made me a ring with the words - "This Too Shall Pass" - inscribed around it. It struck me immediately as the most beautifully economic phrase I've ever heard to express both the comfort and the terror of the passing of time and the passing of condition, and of our own mortality."

Danny Schmidt  - This Too Shall Pass -

5. Penny Lang  suffered a stroke and a year away from music. 

Penny Lang, began singing in montreal in the 60s at the age of 21. In Arpil 17 of 2000 she was in St. John's, Newfoundland starting a concert tour when she suffered a stroke'  "It was a strange feeling," she recalled  "it was like I no longer had any control."

The concert tour was cancelled and Penny spent a week in a hospital in Newfoundland before returning to recover at home in Montreal. It would be more than a year before she performed again. And talking with Penny, there's no obvious sign that she's been through a stroke and the subsequent speech and physiotherapy.Penny battled back, slowly began touring again and put out Gather Honey, a collection of previously-unreleased tracks from early in her career and most recently Stone Sand Sea Sky.

I caught her manager Heidi last night, as Penny was stepping on stage at the end of a 6 week tour, in Montreal, at the Sala Rossa...Heidi wrote:

Hi Angela, here's Penny's comment: "Playing music is not a problem, but travelling sure is!" 
That's Penny's take on it, hopefully you can get in a tune!, thanks (she was getting ready to go on stage as I caught her for this).
All the best, Heidi Fleming [Penny's manager] of Direction d’artistes Fleming

Penny Lang - Johnny Be Fair 141
Live at they Yellow Door - She-Wolf Records
[Music and humour, both very healing]

7. David Roth Cancer of the Thyroid two years ago.

David wrote:
"Three months after I had my thyroid removed in December of 2005, I was scheduled for a "radioactive iodine ablation" to destroy any residual thyroid cells remaining in my throat.  My endocrinologist instructed me to go on a two-week no-salt diet and completely off all thyroid medicine in order to prepare my body for this radioactive smoothie.  The doc said the first week would be okay, but the second week I could expect to feel drowsy, puffy, short-tempered, irritable, tired, and start losing my voice..and that second week I had a tour of the Pacific Northwest that involved 7 appearances in 6 days...armed with my uncooked fruits, vegetables, and a mind-over-matter disposition, I sailed through those shows, lifted up by the joy of music, the communities I was surrounded with, and I felt as if I'd never sung better.  When I came home, I turned down the drink, and have been going strong ever, since."
David Roth will be appearing live, 1/2hour from here tomorrow at the Mansion at 3 PM this coming Sunday! 

David Roth - Manual Garcia
Rising in Love -

8. Sloan Wainwright -  thyroid cancer a decade ago

I met Sloan Wainwright back in 1996 I believe. We were both wiating for a shuttle bus at an airport. She is gracious, friendly, calming and has many powerful releases out to date. Here is her note to me when I asked if she would share publicly about illness and music. She wrote:

I'm happy to share publicly. It's been 10 years that I have been cancer-free.   I had thyroid cancer in 1997. I had my thyroid, along with it's  tumors, completely removed and I take synthetic hormones to regulate  my body.   The scariest part of this condition and of having surgery, for me,  was the fear of losing my ability to sing.
But, I knew in my heart that I would be alright.   Thyroid cancer was do-able. I knew I could get through it.   The music carried me and kept me strong and focused.
After a very successful surgery , I was not able to sing for 5 months  but slowly I began working with my voice again.  My voice had changed a little but it didn't bother me.
It was like being re-united with a most beloved friend.  I was re-connected to myself, to my expression, to the world.
In May of '98 , my music partner, Steve Murphy and I were  able put the finishing touches on our second recording project " From  Where You Are "  And I was able to sing the final vocal for the record.  It's a version of John Lennons " Across The Universe "  That song embodies the thoughts and emotions , the journey, of my  cancer experience

Sloan Wainwright - (Lennon) Across the Universe
From Where You Are -

9. Carla Ulbrich - Kidney failure and stroke

Carla suffered a stroke years ago after suffering with kidny trouble. She spent many months medicated and in hospitals and sent me an explanation of her troubles. I asked if I could read it on air.....and asked if she would suggest a song to follow her words... she wrote...."sure you can just bread my paragraph about kidneys on the air :) .." adding:
I struggle with chronic kidney disease, which at one point led to a stroke, after which i had to relearn the guitar. i do have periods of remission when my kidneys work just fine.
i am not on a transplant list, have not ever been on dialysis. i have gone into kidney failure 3 times, but never dropped below 30% function. dialysis and transplant are for folks with 20% function or less. my dad is on dialysis.  what to air... how bout i narrow ir down and you pick whatever goes best with the rest of the set:

Carla Ulbrich -I have to kill you now
Professional Smart Aleck -

10. Stefan De Lauriers - is an author and songwirtier who has coped with Parkinson's for over 13 years.

Stefan wrote to the folk dj list:

"I don’t consider having Parkinson’s to be a tragedy. When I wrote my autobiography, “Symphony in A Flat Tire,” I made no mention of it. I do not want to be known as an artist who has Parkinson’s, but it is pretty obvious from my shaking that I have something going on.  I have written some songs about dealing with illness, having an inside perspective. If these can be of value I offer them to the folk community. In an ideal world I would like my work to stand (or fall) on its own merit.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in November 1994. At the time I was working as a photographer and couldn’t figure out why I was knocking over tripods. When I learned my diagnoses I phased out photography and phased in my music career, which I had neglected for fifteen years. I picked up my guitar and was sad that my dexterity had been lost in my left hand. For two years from that time when the medicine kicked in I could play well.
I started writing songs again, and in two years my repertoire went from about fifteen ‘good’ songs to fifty. I started making CD’s, playing coffeehouses, and sold my CD’s at the gigs. Having Parkinson’s gave me a unique perspective on the suffering people go through, and I tried always to have a positive perspective. So far I have produced three CD’s, which have been aired on a number of the posting folk djs radio shows.
At this time I’m no longer able to play guitar and sing. A year ago I was planning to make one last CD but for a number of reasons it didn’t happen. It is hard to justify producing music when you can’t go out to promote it. For the last six months I’ve been trying too get two of my best songs recorded, but both the producers that agreed to help me are very busy. I’m still determined though.  I still go to the local open mic, which is one block away, once a month and read my stories.

The song I will play of Stefans is called Carousel Wind, sung by Chris Alan.
Stefan says: Someone suggested I write a song about my dealing with Parkinson’s disease. So I envisioned myself as a medieval troubadour prematurely paralyzed on his merry way. Progressing from the open stage to the dungeon and the ultimate tower is symbolic not only of man’s personal pursuit but of mankind’s quest for enlightenment.
The singer just graduated from Montclair State University and teaches in an elementary school. He also teaches piano. He is also a songwriter.

Chris Alan - (Stefan des Lauriers ) Carousel Wind
Messenger's Lament - Music Kingdom -
You can listen to his four minute "Symphony in A Flat Tire"

11. Penny Nichols -  breast cancer

I am sending you two songs from my new CD the 8 Voyages of Nep.  These are the basic tracks, just guitar and vocal, but I think they represent the intent of the CD very well.  The 8 Voyages of Nep is a project that grew out of my 8 chemo treatments for breast cancer in 2005.  It is a book/CD project that will be finished and ready for distribution in March of 2008.  While I was in chemo, I wrote 8 essays to accompany my treatments for the benefit of my support group.  I used the metaphor that going through chemo is like taking a long adventurous sea voyage.  So the essays were titled "The First Wave, The Second Wave, etc.."  When the project is finished, it will include the 8 essays as well as some water colors that I painted to illustrate the journey and a commentary on the essays which tell the medical story, what was actually happening, while I was in chemo.  Along with the 12 songs that I wrote about healing and the cancer experience.
The point of the book/Cd project is for women or men going through chemo treatments to have some good music to listen to, some healing music, and also to see what I was going through, the medical treatment, and what I did with that information; the essays.  I think that it is very important for people going through the cancer experience to understand what a mind game the whole thing is.  What you do with your mind around cancer is important for the healing process because when your mind is at peace, your body can heal much more quickly than if you are in a fight or flight response state.  That's my opinion.  I will be donating a portion of the profits from the sale of the 8 Voyages to cancer research.
I wrote the Pumpkin Field a year before my cancer diagnosis.  I believe that some of the songs I write are commentary on things that haven't happened yet, and this song is surely one of those.
Penny Nichols - The Pumpkin Field - CD the 8 Voyages of Nep, coming out in March of 2008.

12.  Levon Helm - throat cancer

Iconic drummer and singer in The Band, is back with a miracle of an album, as he suggests in his liner notes.  Helm almost lost his life to throat cancer a few years back. He most assuredly lost his voice. So the fact that he is singing at all is significant. His daughter Amy sings on the release.  The release seems to take him back to 1940s when he was born in Arkansas, after playing all those years electrifying dylan with  The Band.

Levon Helm with daughter Amy Helm and Teresa Williams and larry campbell - (Laurelyn Dossett) Anna Lee 341
Dirt Farmer - Vanguard

13. Gypsy Soul is the duo of Cilette Swann (singer/lyricist) and Roman Morykit (producer/writer) soulful, acoustic rock with Celtic and Americana roots sound.

Cilette has been diagnosed with a unique Thyroid Disease (multi-nodular tumor) that has affected her quality of life for five years. After many tests and Specialist's visits to the tune of $20,000+ out of pocket, Cilette is still struggling with her ailment and needing to keep her immune system strong, especially when on the road. She is dedicated to healing herself not only though her connection with her songs and audience, but to finding a balance between alternative and allopathic medicine. Their heartfelt music has a healing, inspirational quality. their latest CD, "Beneath The Covers: A Rediscovery."

Cilette Swann/Roman Morykit - Who
Superstition Highway -

14. Grace Griffith - diagnosed with parkinsons
[suggested for inclusion by many including Carolyn VandeWiele WFHB Community Radio, Bloomington, IN]
From the Washington Post Thursday, April 1, 2004: Grace Griffith says Parkinson's disease inspires her songs of love, appreciation of beauty and deep connections with people and things around her. Grace said: "The peculiar thing for me was that I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when things were really coming together for me. I had found my stride and had a confidence that I hadn't had before.  I had a lot of opportunity for travel and promotion and recording, and it happened at the same time, limiting what I could do. And amazingly, it's okay that way. For the most part, I think I am very lucky."....

Grace Griffith - Kind Friends and Companions
Minstrel Song -

15. ERIC Lowen - Lou Gehrig's Disease [ALS]
"The team, "We Belong Together...for Eric Lowen," is a Minneapolis website and organization walking in support of
the fight against ALS.  "In particular, we are uniting to show our  support for Eric Lowen, who was diagnosed with ALS in March of
2004. "
Eric Lowen is the co-writer of the songs, “We Belong,” made popular by Pat Benetar,"Hammerhead Shark" recorded by David Lee Roth and "You Don't Have To Go Home Tonight" performed by The Triplets.  Eric sang the theme song to the short-lived seventies situtation comedy Hello Larry and is the screetching, clucking voice of the giant fighting chicken seen on the animated series Family Guy. Eric and songwriting/performing partner, Dan Navarro, make up Lowen & Navarro. The folk rock duo celebrated 20 years of performing  together in August of 2007.

Lowen and Navarro - (Bob Calilli, Michael Lookofsky & Tony Sansone ) Walk Away Renee [made popular by the band The Left Banke in 1966 ]
Hogging the Covers -

16. U Utah  Phillips - Heart weak and Cheyne-Stokes respiration

Utah Phillips has decided to cease all touring due to ill health.  Utah's heart has deteriorated to the point where he can no longer travel, so he  will  cease all touring. However, he has started a podcast to talk and sing at:

Utah Phillips Intro - Rosalie Sorrels -  (U.Philips)
I Think of You - Starlight on the rails - AK PRess, Daemon Records  [61 songs 281 minutes!!]

Although Rosalie Sorrels seems to be in good health now, in the past she was not so lucky.  In 1988 she endured a cerebral aneurysm.  In May of 1998 she had a mastectomy. Currently she suffers from the ailment that affects much of the elder generation, arthritis, a condition that seriously hurts her guitar playing (Statesman).  At this moment, she is in recovery from breast cancer.  She had chemotherapy in the year 2000.

17. Michael Troy -Guitarist, Singer/Songwriter - 2x Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Survivor, 10 Years, from Somerset, MA

Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1998, Michael released Whispers In The Wind which garnered critical praise. After the release of his second CD, Romancing the Moon, in 2004, Michael was diagnosed in 2005 with a recurrent case of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. After receiving chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant by stem cell replacement, his own, Michael is once again cancer free and back on tour. Now cancer free, he is celebrating his journey performing at clubs, coffeehouses and festivals throughout the country, winning a variety of songwriter's contests along the way.

I wrote Michael asking if he were willing to share about his illness. He wrote back:
"As you say, illness can define and control your life, and in such a way that's not visible to others. How can they understand what they can't see, Like, "Oh you look great, why don't you this or that", when inside your broken. Your inner strength is weakened to that of someone twice your years. My personal history, so you know, In "98" lymphoma, and six rounds of chemo, "CHOP", was the battery of drugs. Then a relapse in 2005, and 2 rounds of  CHOP  and  a bone marrow transplant. That was two and a half years ago and only now am I'm feeling strong enough  to think that I can pick up the peace's and possibly move forward while all the time I've been telling people when asked, "I fell great", because, what's the point. How can they understand what they can't see, touch, or feel.  I am a Husband, a Father, a Son, a Brother, ect. who happens to be a Musician.

A wonderful friend told me once that musicians are,"Doctors of the soul, and are necessary for the spiritual well being of the population". I have taken that to heart.
I think the song on that compilation is,"The Love Song", If So, It was written while going through  Chemo in January"99". My wife would say, kiddingly," Oh, you write songs for all your friends, you've written about Wally, Louie, ect. You never wrote a song about me. At the time I thought, I might die soon, and that I needed to tell her in a song so she would have something of me to hang on to. Looking back, I needed to think that she would keep me with her until we meet again.

Michael Troy - Love Song
Romancing the Moon -
The above is also include on  a realease about cancer called "Im Too Young for This"

Also on the compilation is the last guest, who played live in the studio.

18. LAURA HIGGINS - Pianist, Singer/Songwriter, Hodgkins Lymphoma Survivor, 7 Years, High Bridge, NJ

As a 19 year old college student, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma after nearly 18-months of clinical misdiagnosis.  Laura began writing songs after her diagnosis.
After 3 years in remission, Laura was nominated as "best new singer/songwriter" by the Boston Music Awards and proceeded to garner critical praise for her music, which has been described as "a unique mix of girlish wisdom and womanly experience, the combination of which challenges the nature of ballad with concise lyrics and a rare sense of emotion that is as real as it is effective." Originally from Warren, NJ, Laura has a growing fan base and two acclaimed albums which are rapidly putting her on the map.

For more information about Laura Higgins, visit
From the studio and from her release Mr. Confidence she sang:

18. Your Sympathy
19. Everlasting Arms
20. All That It Seems

21. Dear Ophelia
22. Mr. Confidence
23. You Wont Fall

In closing.....From Chritine Lavin:

Here's a funny story about illness you could use -- this is true -- an old friend of mine worked at the reference desk at the Rockefeller University medical library.  A woman came in one day, spent hours and hours going through books before approaching the librarian to ask for help.  She said, "I have searched and searched and searched and just can't find any information on a specific illness.  Do you know where I can find information on 'Beatlemania'?"  The librarian could see the woman was serious, so she didn't laugh in her face, but said to her, "Oh I don't believe that's a real illness." And the woman said, "Yes it is!  It's what killed Elvis Presley!"

True story.  You can't make this stuff up. - Christine

Folk Plus is a SING OUT! magazine Radio Partner (

Thanks to all well wishers with my curret battle with neurotoxic poisoning and chemical sensitivities    (

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. (jrw)

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