Singer overcomes throat cancer to get back to what he loves, singing the Great American Songbook

Sandy Kenyon Image
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Singer reflects on overcoming cancer and continuing his career
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Sandy Kenyon has more on singer Richard Holbrook's comeback to the stage.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- We have an update to a story we first brought you back in 2015 about a nightclub singer who beat stage-four cancer.

Every song tells a story, but none is more dramatic than the real-life tale of the performer himself.

"Singing really saved my life in many ways," said Richard Holbrook, a singer.

A decade ago, Holbrook was one of the city's best-known cabaret singers.

But shortly after a performance, Holbrook was diagnosed with throat cancer.

"I've been to hell and back if you'll pardon the expression," he said.

We first met him eight years ago and recently caught up with the performer again at "54 Below" in Manhattan.

He's back after a long journey.

"It took me a long time to get my voice back to where I could really sing," Holbrook said.

He said his range has improved since we first met and his ordeal has also deepened the meaning of the words he sings.

"There's much more of an emotional connection to the material than there was before," Holbrook said.

In his accomplishment, lies meaning for anyone facing adversity.

"Follow your dream and follow your passion, and whatever happens in your life, keep the passion going because it will help you get through those rough times," Holbrook said. "I was able to use singing as a form of survival because it kept me focused, and it's like, 'OK, got a show to do. Showtime!' And that's what kept me going."

Spending a decade cancer-free has left him optimistic about the future.

"I almost feel like I've run a marathon, and I've succeeded in completing that marathon, and it's a feeling: a feeling of great accomplishment," he said.

Holbrook is back where he belongs, keeping the Great American Songbook alive in clubs like "54 Below" in the Theater District.

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