Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve most likely heard John Cody’s voice before. The Canadian singer-songwriter did backing vocals on Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway”. For the past few years he has been battling some pretty serious health problems: colon cancer, a severe degenerative auto-immune disease, and in the fall will undergo surgery for an umbilical hernia. His latest health problem, however, has been the most devastating for him: larynx cancer. Cody has tried to put on a brave face and make the most of a very unfortunate situation.
According to the Toronto Star:
“Cody received his latest distressing diagnosis in March. He says he ‘begged and begged’ to push the surgery, first slotted for June 10, as late as possible so he could leave a final musical legacy.
“‘They told me, “Any longer than that and you’re going to die,”’ says Cody. ‘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’”.
Cody’s project, currently titled Hard Won, still doesn’t have a release date, and won’t until after the surgery. Before deciding on anything, Cody wants to find out the extent of his cancer and long-term prognosis. If the cancer is very serious, he wants to get the album out as soon as possible before he dies.
While Cody recorded his final album in Toronto in June, Unison Benevolent Fund hosted a fundraiser at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. The night featured sets from some major Canadian musicians and between country singer Tim Hicks and rock band the Trews, John Cody performed his final gig.
The Star reported:
“First he played an original bluesy song he wrote called ‘Solidarity’. Destined for the new album and written when he first learned he was sick, it includes the lyric, ‘I’m staring down the barrel of something I can’t be sure of’.
“Cody then told the crowd about his illness, sang the praises of Unison and shared with the 1,000 or so spectators that ‘tonight is my final performance’.
“After a few gasps from the gathered, Cody, who has walked with a cane for about a year, got off his stool, grabbed his custom Fender Mustang and moved gingerly towards the front of the stage.
“In perfect contrast to the serious message he’d just delivered, Cody went full throttle on his guitar ripping out Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’. The audience erupted in a raucous singalong. Maudlin it was not”.
Cody said that he didn’t want to go out emotional and singing about angels, but rather he wanted to go out cool and funny. That desire to not be a bitter and angry sick person led him to choosing to cover Prince as a final farewell to his voice.
It might seem a cruel fate for a singer to permanently lose their voice, but Cody refuses to see it that way. Instead, he plans to continue writing and playing music. If he is healthy enough to tour to promote his upcoming album, he will hire vocalists.