As I write this, I look up at the postcard hanging on the wall above my computer: "B.B. King Blues Club & Grill Presents An Evening with Blues Diva Candye Kane—May 25, 2016." I knew, when I bought two tickets for the show, that it was a longshot. According to her Facebook page, she had been in a California hospital for most of 2016. Still, I had hope, as there were stories, over the years, of her leaving her hospital bed to do concerts. After all, she was known as "the Toughest Girl Alive."
Candye Kane started her music journey in the mid-1980s, first trying to market herself for country music. Nashville turned their backs on her, due to her recent past working in porn to support her young family. She performed punk and opera, but her career really took off when she turned to jazz and blues. She found a niche as a self-deprecating, big, busty blues singer who could channel Patsy Cline, Big Maybelle, and Janis Joplin. Her 12 albums included a mix of comical blues ("White Trash Girl," "Queen of the Wrecking Ball," and "Two Hundred Pounds of Fun") with bluesy covers ("My Country Man"), country swing ("Dance Hall Girls," "Forgive Me"), and rock songs ("Whole Lotta Love").
Her career took an abrupt turn in 2008 when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Candye kept recording and touring, determined to fight the deadly disease. As the cancer advanced, she lost weight and could no longer market herself as "200 Pounds of Fun." Her concerts became more intimate, her music a little more serious, and she embraced the image of "the Toughest Girl Alive."
I spent an evening introducing one of my roommates to her music, playing hours of her CDs and making plans to see her live. But it was not to be, as Candye Kane's eight-year battle with pancreatic cancer has come to an end.