Iron Men: Five Rock 'n' Roll Cancer Survivors

Categories: Blue Notes

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Sad news emerged today that heavy metal godfather Tony Iommi has been diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma. It was a big shock for Black Sabbath fans, as the group's original lineup have a new album and a world tour planned for 2012. Though already counted among rock and roll's ultimate survivors, Iommi certainly has the fight of his life ahead of him. The Big C has taken some of Rocks Off's greatest musical heroes over the years, including George Harrison, Joey Ramone, Frank Zappa and Iommi's bandmate in Heaven and Hell, Ronnie James Dio.

The outlook isn't quite as gloomy as some of Sabbath's best music, however. There are also music legends who have looked cancer straight in the eye and cracked a Fender Strat over the disease's head. Here are a few that give us hope for the original Iron Man.

Eddie Van Halen

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Photo by Daniel Kramer
One of Iommi's fellow hard-rock heroes was treated right here in Houston at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center back in 2000. Eddie Van Halen had about a third of his tongue removed in his battle against cancer at the dawn of the new millennium. Eddie blamed the disease on the metal guitar picks he used to hold in his mouth while playing finger-tapping solos; more rational observers pointed instead to the 70 trillion or so cigarettes that Ed chain-smoked over the past three decades. Whatever the cause, EVH is now cancer-free and heading back to Houston this June on Van Halen's North American tour.


Dick Dale

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Photo by Jason Wolter
Much like Iommi, surf-rock superstar Dick Dale is sometimes referred to as the Father of Heavy Metal. Back in 1964, though, at the height of his career, Dale was diagnosed with colon cancer. Though his prognosis wasn't good, Dale beat cancer with the help of his own brand of clean living: He never smoked, drank, or ate read meat. The cancer returned in 2008, but the relentless Dale continues to fight and win, performing dozens of shows annually in his mid-70s.


Sheryl Crow

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
Pop rocker Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. Luckily, doctors caught the cancer early, resulting in a lumpectomy and six and a half weeks of radiation for the "All I Wanna Do" singer. Now cancer-free, Crow has written and published a cookbook of her favorite healthy, cancer-fightin' recipes with the cringe-worthy title, "If It Makes You Healthy." It can't be that bad, we suppose.


Kylie Minogue

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
Another breast-cancer survivor, Kylie Minogue, didn't let the Big C stand in the way of global discotheque domination. The famously fit pop pixie was diagnosed back in 2005, and her high-profile battle is credited by some with encouraging young women to undergo screening -- the so-called "Kylie effect." Currently in remission, Minogue was made an honorary Doctor of Health Sciences by Anglia Ruskin University in Southern England last year for her work raising cancer awareness around the globe.


Rod Stewart

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Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Veteran British rocker Rod Stewart could have lost his trademark rasp forever when surgeons removed a cancerous lump from his throat in 2001, but the former Faces frontman simply refuses to go away. Nine months of recovery later, Rod was once again asking if we found him sexy. The singer credits early discovery for his successful battle. A decade after surviving his bout with thyroid cancer, Stewart continues to warble out the hits.


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