\ TORONTO \
Add another musical genius to the list of talents claimed by cancer in 2016.
Brian Cober, who had been ailing off and on for the past couple of years, passed away peacefully in his sleep overnight according to a post on his Facebook timeline by his wife, Dianna shortly after noon today.
While, as we reported November 12, he had announced just over a month ago following a brief stint in hospital that he had been diagnosed with incurable cancer, few expected the end to come so soon.
He noted at the time that he would be forced to give up performing, particularly since the cancer that had plagued him for two years had spread to his windpipe, leaving him unable to sing.
It was the final blow in a series of medical woes that had beset the at 60 year-old songwriter and Blues guitar innovator over the past two years. He had briefly returned to performing in August after brain surgery in the summer to remove a cancerous growth.
He had previously also had two surgeries in the summer of 2015 to treat a cancerous growth on his larynx, which seemed to be successful and just over a year ago we were able to report that he was back in action as host of the Sunday night jam at Grossman’s Tavern, where he’s been a fixture for more than two decades.
Although after his latest diagnosis he attended a November 18 benefit held for him at the club and was able to do a few tunes, he could not continue hosting the jam he had helmed for many years.
Cober was one of a clutch of Kensington Market-based talents about whom I began writing shortly after inaugurating this publication as The Open Season in 1992 but stood out as a truly distinctive songwriter and for his innovative guitar work. His unique double-slide Blues guitar style made him a popular attraction at festivals and impressed legions of fellow players as well as fans.
A 1994 cover story in Issue #025 of to-nite, as the publication became known before becoming Toronto Moon in 2009, was merely one of many articles written about this one-of-a-kind performer and gifted songwriter.
Cober recorded several albums of his originals both with his longtime group The Nationals and later, after the passing of his bass player and longtime best friend, Paul McNamara in 2008, under his own name, including his most recent release, 2014’s Austin Wired, which has been hailed by many music critics.
In addition to his prodigious musical abilities, Brian is also being remembered as someone who was completely likeable. Despite his talents and some renown they produced, he never exhibited an ounce of pretentiousness or haughtiness. His boyish grin reflected an affable, easy-going fellow who was a pleasure to be around. He was also generous to other artists, in particular to up-and-coming players, in sharing his stage and time.
Tributes have begun streaming in from fellow musicians and fans to his Facebook timeline and on those of friends who have shared the news.
Details about funeral and memorial arrangements have not yet been set. He will, of course, be one of those who will be included in Toronto Moon’s forthcoming Musical Legacies Online Museum on the lifeprintmemories.com website once enough support has been garnered to launch that project.
-Gary 17, TorontoMoon.ca