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Press Play on This Inspiring Playlist Featuring Artists Who Have Fought Breast Cancer

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by Monica Haro

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by Monica Haro

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This playlist features artists who have had breast cancer, handpicked by Bezzy guide Monica Haro. Get ready to rock as we honor their journeys.

All my life, I’ve turned to music to carry me along.

I’ve turned to music constantly to process different stages of breast cancer, like getting my chemo-day game face on or to have a big, ugly cry. I’ve made my own breast cancer playlists over the years and listened to those of others.

But then I thought, what about a playlist inspired by people who have actually had breast cancer?

So I decided to make one. Some artists are long-term survivors, and some we’ve sadly lost to stupid cancer along the way. We belong to the worst club in the world you never wanted to join.

Here’s a list of musical artists and fellow breast cancer folks who we can honor by enjoying their music.

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My ‘artists who have had cancer’ playlist

I’m always grateful when celebrities share their cancer story as it draws some light to the disease. It’s made me feel less alone, and it’s a reminder that breast cancer can touch anyone at any time.

I hope exploring these songs and videos brings you some enjoyment — maybe in the chemo lounge or while waiting at medical appointments, or maybe, like me, you like to listen while cooking or driving.

Peter Criss of Kiss

Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Peter Criss is the co-founder and original drummer of Kiss. He was diagnosed in 2008 at 63 and had a lumpectomy.

Criss represents the small percentage of men who get breast cancer.

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow was diagnosed in 2006 at age 44. In 2010, she partnered with her surgeon to open the Sheryl Crow Imaging Center at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Santa Monica, California.

Skeeter Davis

Country and pop singer Skeeter Davis was diagnosed in 1988, then had a recurrence in 1996 before passing away at age 72 in 2004.

She gave her final performance at the Grand Old Opry in 2002.

Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed in 2004 at age 43. She attended the 2005 Grammy Awards bald from chemotherapy and performed a tribute to Janis Joplin along with Joss Stone, singing Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”

I had never seen this before researching this piece, and it gave me chills watching it.

Mandy Gonzalez from Hamilton

Broadway veteran Mandy Gonzalez was diagnosed in 2019 at age 41 during her time starring in Hamilton as Angelica Schuyler Church.

Gonzalez returned to performing after COVID-19, which also happened to be her first performance post-treatment.

Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John was first diagnosed in 1992 and then had a metastatic recurrence in 2013 and 2017. She died from the disease in 2022.

Newton-John is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, as well as the highest-selling female Australian recording artist of all time. She left us with countless beautiful songs.

Kylie Minogue

Multi-award-winning Australian singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed in 2005 at age 36. Like others diagnosed relatively young, Kylie has said her cancer was originally misdiagnosed.

Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton was diagnosed around age 30 in 1976. She was hitting those insanely high vocal notes before Mariah Carey, who credits Minnie as an influence.

Minnie worked with legends like Etta James, Muddy Waters, and Stevie Wonder before her career was cut short. She passed away three years after her diagnosis.

Roxanne Shante

Roxanne Shante was diagnosed in 2009 at age 40. She was a hip-hop pioneer referred to as the “Queen of Rap” at the height of her career.

Even rap group UTFO created their song “Roxanne, Roxanne” about her. It’s a widely acclaimed hip-hop classic.

Carly Simon

Carly Simon was diagnosed in 1998 at 52 years old. She’s now a 30-year survivor and has influenced the likes of Taylor Swift and Tori Amos.

Nina Simone

Known as “The High Priestess of Soul,” singer, pianist, songwriter, and civil rights activist Nina Simone experienced breast cancer for several years before she died at age 70 in 2003.

Rolling Stone Magazine named Simone one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time in 2008, and she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex

After seeing a Sex Pistols performance, Poly Styrene founded the band X-Ray Spex. She influenced future generations of punk rock bands and the Riot Grrrl movement.

She passed away from an advanced form of breast cancer in 2011 at age 53.

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Takeaway

Music helps me with everything, from the simple pleasure of listening to celebrating and even working through grief.

I hope this playlist can offer the same to you, with a little reminder that cancer touches so many of us — even rock stars — and that you’re not alone.

Fact checked on May 30, 2024

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About the author

Monica Haro

Monica was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is raising her son. She loves staying connected to the breast cancer community through her work as the community guide for Bezzy BC, and as production assistant with Wildfire Magazine. After her cancer diagnosis, she has a passion for volunteering, and serves on the board of directors with her local support group, Bay Area Young Survivors. Monica loves creative expression through writing and art. She has shown her breast cancer advocacy exhibit “Reconstructed: A Breast Cancer Documentation Project” with El Comalito Collective in Vallejo, California several times over the years. You can connect with her on Instagram.

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