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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Born To Sing

"When you know you're going to die, you can control what your last words are. This is sort of like that. There's nothing that exists on the face of this earth that I love more than singing. Even as a kid, I never wanted to be a fireman or a policeman or an astronaut, it was always a singer."
"They [surgeons] told me, 'Any longer than that [a month after the original scheduled surgery date] and you're going to die'. I just wanted to know how much longer I could have to sing and to make this record."
"When they told me they were taking my voice, I didn't go hide in the corner. I started a crowd-funding campaign. It wasn't about focusing on the grim reality. It was about being able to make the last statement, being able to say this is my last song, my last record. A chance to say thank you. I want the album to be out before I die."
"I think it's going to suck [life without a voice]. I think it's going to be really sh---y. But ... I want to think of funny ways of handling it. I want to be able to walk into a room and still make people laugh."
"I just don't want to get angry. I don't want to be a bitter sick person. I don't want it to be my identity I don't want to be, 'the guy who had his larynx removed'. I'm a total person. This is just something that's happened."
John Cody, 53, singer, songwriter, musician, Montreal, Quebec
Canadian singer/songwriter John Cody is about to have surgery on his cancerous larynx, and so finishing up his album has become a mad rush.
Canadian singer/songwriter John Cody is about to have surgery on his cancerous larynx, and so finishing up his album has become a mad rush.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

When he was four years old, John Cody had come into possession of a broken microphone, and he cherished having it, imagining no doubt, as a child will, that somehow it still worked and he could project himself with it to an appreciative audience, and he began aspiring to make that a reality. At age twelve he taught himself  how to play guitar, he wrote his own songs by age 15, and by the time he turned 17, began playing professionally. Music became his life's purpose and pleasure.

He is a born performer. And he's been around. So have  his songs, recorded by other musical artists. He has an American gold record hanging on the wall of his one-bedroom apartment in Montreal, recognizing his performance on "Life is a Highway". He has another for his role in co-writing "The Fundamental Things" for Bonnie Raitt. Among those who have recorded some of his songs have been Holly Cole and Lynn Miles.

But he also has three of his own solo albums. He lived for 21 years in Los Angeles. But he has returned to his home base of Montreal where his parents and other family members still live. And he aspired to produce his final recording at a studio in Toronto. It will be his fourth album, produced to a very tight deadline, to beat the surgery that will still his voice forever. It isn't the colon cancer he's had for years, or the degenerative auto-immune disease, nor the umbilical hernia surgery scheduled for fall surgery.

What felled John Cody's voice was simple misfortune. Four days ago he underwent surgery to have his larynx removed because there was no other option than to excise the cancer that had invaded his larynx. All he ever wanted was to have his voice soar into the atmosphere. And it no longer will. He only learned of the cancer that had struck his larynx in March and his reaction was to convince surgeons to hold off as long as possible, to enable him to leave a final legacy.

He had to focus not on the cancer that was destroying his larynx and his future as a musician, but the practical details of how to go about funding another album. It would take $15,000 to pay for studio time, equipment to be rented, musicians to be engaged. And he didn't have the funding required. He lives on social assistance in his apartment alone but for his cat, Root Beer.
A charity providing emergency relief to those in the Canadian music industry stepped forward.The Unison Benevolent Fund has paid his rent for the past year, and helps with the groceries. Cody posted his fundraising situation on he site, and $4,000 was raised in small donations from friends and admirers. In June, Slaight Music of Toronto -- dedicated to aiding the development of Canadian musicians, contributed a critical $10,000 toward the recording goal.

During the recording sessions cortisone injections and ventilators helped him through the studio sessions to ease the pain and discomfort in his throat. Since then, he's been preparing for the time when he could no longer speak by recording some of his typical expressions on his iPad. At the touch of a screen his voice will respond when he is with people and wants to express a thought. He plans to learn sign language. And he has recorded sentences through a voicebank,

"At the end it can synthesize your voice so when you're using adaptive devices, it's actually your voice instead of a robot voice. There's so much to do but I have such little energy. I feel like a plate spinner who hasn't rehearsed", he sighed. He hadn't wanted a percutaneous tracheotomy that would have left him the ability to speak through an electronic device.

"But then I wouldn't be able to play my chromatic harmonica, which would make me very unhappy. I'm not going to play the harmonica out of my neck."

John Cody at his last public performance, which became an emotional affair.
John Cody at his last public performance, which became an emotional affair.  (Todd Korol

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