Music About Cancer
- Cancer fighters have many theme songs, some more obvious than others. To expand your repertoire, consider songs you may not have known were about cancer including George Harrison’s “Deep Blue,” Metallica’s “Until It Sleeps” or rapper Lupe Fiasco’s “Mission.”
- It is common to struggle with a wide range of emotions while going through cancer. Letting out some of those emotions in a healthy way can benefit your stress levels. Music can have a healing power.
- “I have found music and rock ‘n’ roll to be transformational,” survivor Joel Naftelberg tells SurvivorNet. “Without air guitar, my treatment would have been incredibly sad,” music-enthusiast and survivor Marquina Iliev-Piselli tells us.
“Mission” by Lupe Fiasco
Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, 39, is “on a mission to combat cancer through music,” writer Ebonie Smith says in an article on Atlantic Records’ website. Fiasco wrote the cancer anthem “Mission” in 2014, which features lyrics of different cancer survivor stories. “Yeah, seven years old with stage four, that’s what champions are made for,” Fiasco raps. “Got things to paint, Got places to go, Got things to see … I’m bald headed and brave hearted, I’m small … But I’m a hundred feet tall, try to stop me.”Read More
“Until it Sleeps” by Metallica
Metallica singer James Hetfield, 57, lost his mother Cynthia, an opera singer, to cancer at age 16. “Until it Sleeps” is reportedly about the pain and struggle he felt losing her to the disease. The song has a lot of anger and power; It’s almost as if Hetfield is talking to the cancer in the spirit of his mother, and fighting for answers.
So tell me why you’ve chosen me
Don’t want your grip, don’t want your greed
I’ll tear me open, make you gone
No more can you hurt anyone
And the fear still shakes me
So hold me, until it sleeps
Hetfield struggled with his parents Christian Science views while growing up.
“It certainly did affect me though – more than my sister and my brothers, I took it a little more personally,” he said in an interview with Metal Hammer. “Our parents didn’t take us to the doctor. We were basically relying on the spiritual power of the religion to heal us or to shield us from being sick or injured. And so at school I wasn’t allowed to sit through health class, to learn about the body, to learn about illnesses and things like that … So I felt really like an outcast, and, you know, kids would laugh about it.
Fun fact: The band revealed they had chopped off their trademark ’80s long hair in the video for “Until It Sleeps,” causing quite the fan commotion.
“Deep Blue” by George Harrison
English rocker George Harrison from The Beatles, who died from cancer in 2001, wrote “Deep Blue” in 1970 and released it as a B-side for his 1971 charity single “Bangla Desh.” The song was inspired by his mother Louise, who Harrison was close with, and her battle with cancer. Harrison felt helpless that he couldn’t do anything and poured his pain and frustration into that song. Louise died in 1970.
The lyrics include:
When you stand there, watch tired bodies
Full of sickness and pain
To show you just how helpless you really are
When you get down to the truth
It hurts me
Harrison was in the middle of making the album All Things Must Pass in 1970.
“My mother got really ill. I was going all the way up and down England to Liverpool trying to see her in the hospital,” Harrison told Musician magazine’s Timothy White in 1987. “She recovered a little bit for about seven months.”
His father, Harold, got sick from the stress of taking care of his wife, and wound up in the same hospital. “Then, running back and forth to do this record, I wrote that song. I made it up at home one exhausted morning with those major and minor chords. It’s filled with frustration and gloom of going to these hospitals and the feeling of disease — as the word’s meaning truly is — that permeated the atmosphere. Not being able to do anything for suffering family or loved ones is an awful experience.”
Louise sometimes did her own media interviews, and in a 1968 interview she described how George would get a kick out of the fact that she would receive her own fan mail, around 200-250 letters per week. “George says, ‘I think you are really more popular than I am now, mum,’ and he sees all the letters and has a good laugh about it,” she said.
“I’m Going to Love You Through It” by Martina McBride
“I’m Going to Love You Through It” by Martina McBride, 54, represents the strength of the cancer caregivers out there, and how much they do for their loved ones going through the disease. Listen to the song, and feel free to belt out this chorus at the top of your lungs:
When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it
McBride’s official video for the song features well-known cancer survivors such as Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, Today Show co-anchor Hoda Kotb, and singer Sheryl Crow sharing their stories.
“3AM” by Matchbox Twenty
Lead singer Rob Thomas, now 49, had to take care of his mother while she was battling cancer, and he wrote about the experience in his song “3AM” with his band Matchbox Twenty. “3am was written about a time when I was 12 or 13 and my mother had cancer,” Thomas said on VH1’s Storytellers. He wrote about his fear as he dealt with his emotions. “Well, I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes. And the rain’s gonna wash away I believe it.”
Many fans thought that Thomas’ lyrics were describing a relationship with a girlfriend, but it was his relationship with his mother.
She says it’s all gonna end and it might as well be my fault
And she only sleeps when it’s raining
And she screams, and her voice is straining
Healing Through Music
It is common to struggle with a wide range of emotions while going through cancer, or going through it with a loved one. Letting out some of those emotions in a healthy way can benefit your stress levels. Music can makeyou think, feel, or maybe even sometimes escape.
People going through cancer report that music, overall, helps comfort them process emotions when others can’t, or maybe when they just want to be alone. “I have found music and rock ‘n’ roll to be transformational,” survivor Joel Naftelberg tells SurvivorNet. “Without air guitar, my treatment would have been incredibly sad,” music-enthusiast Marquina Iliev-Piselli tells us.
Music and Art – Reflecting On Your Cancer Journey