Singer Outwits Chemo,
Loses Hair But Never Voice

written by Richard Taylor

Call her a gypsy-traveler, temporarily tethered down, or maybe a troubadour whose stunning voice and captivating lyrics make listening to "folk" music fun again. But most of all, call her a survivor who may have lost her long locks, but never her voice.

When singer-songwriter Janet Bratter performs at Fête de la Musique in Carrboro on Sunday, June 18, she will prove the tiring effects of radiation and chemotherapy have little effect on the energy she emits sharing her gift of song.

Despite surgery last September and ongoing cancer treatment now, Bratter still performs regularly. "The chemo makes me feel tired most of the time," she says, "but when I get on stage, the music takes over and I feel alive again."

Though she’d rather be touring the south in her colorful "Bratmobile" RV, Bratter applies a healthy sense of humor to her condition while home in Orange County longer than usual this year. With her colorful clothes, quick wit and zest for the offbeat, Janet regularly makes her doctors and nurses laugh. She even beat chemo to the punch last fall with her own "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" party.

Some of us are bound to be gypsies
And find our own way, it's true.
If there was ever a city that could tie me down,
It would have to be one called new.

A prolific songwriter, Bratter hasn't been able to write about cancer yet. The singer feels "It will come in time. Right now I just have to get my energy levels back up to normal." Most of her folk-blues, folk-rock rooted tunes are based on personal experiences and travels. She constantly gathers new material from the chaos and confusion of world events, mixed with the cyclical ups and downs of her unconventional lifestyle.

The web-based music magazine Asazi says "Janet Bratter has been able to live life on her own terms. Her music is exhilarating, yet maintains a down-home feeling."

On stage with guitar, the musician moves methodically between clever upbeat numbers about history and adventure, like "Pyramids" and "Circus," to slower ballads such as "Passing Ships." Catchy compositions like "The Love That Comes Back ‘Round," " Carpe Diem," and "Orleans Parish Prison Blues" complete her sets. Her tribute to the "Best Years" of her parents' life may show up Sunday as well.
There's only one thing that I’ve found,
That keeps my feet on solid ground,
And that's the love I give away,
And the love that comes back 'round.

At the Fête, Bratter plays Armadillo Grill at 4 pm and earlier on "Acoustic Alley" (Weaver Street). Unity Center of Peace Church presents a "Jammin' for Janet" fund-raiser June 24, featuring the singer in concert from 8 to 10 pm. She also plays the upcoming Family Fourth in Carrboro and at LU-E-Gs in Hillsborough July 21. Like most musicians these days, Bratter uses her website, to reach a greater audience. For her, it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts. And when she adds cancer survivor to her list of experiences along the road, you can bet she’ll write a song about it.

Richard Taylor is a local writer, Carrboro historian, and community activist.


Janet Bratter | King Nyle | An Interview with Nyle Frank | Nyle Frank Bio

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