Battling Terminal Cancer, Robin Rogers Gives Thanks This has been a surreal year of ups and downs for singer-songwriter Robin Rogers. Her new album, Back in the Fire, is a hit on the blues charts, but her success has been shadowed by a grim diagnosis.

Battling Terminal Cancer, Robin Rogers Gives Thanks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Robin Rogers is a blues singer in Charlotte, North Carolina. And this fall some friends and musicians threw a benefit concert for her because Robin Rogers has a cancerous tumor in her liver. Like a lot of musicians, she has no health insurance to cover her care in a hospice. The concert was a huge outpouring of love and support for her. And now Robin Rogers has a brand new album on Blind Pig Records that's a hit on the blues charts. It's called "Back in the Fire."

(Soundbite of song, "Second Time Around")

Ms. ROBIN ROGERS (Singer): (Singing) Let me love you, let me show you, it's gonna be better the second time around. I got real intentions, baby, and I can't slow it down.

SIMON: That's "Second Time Around" from the CD "Back in the Fire" with Robin Rogers on vocals and harmonica. Robin Rogers joins us now from member station WFAE in Charlotte. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: And let me ask you first: how are you doing?

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, that's a loaded question. Every day is different. I have a lot of side effects from the (unintelligible) I'm taking. So if anyone's been on chemotherapy they know how it dreadful it is. So I'm hanging in there, buddy. I'm fighting.

SIMON: Got to tell you, Ms. Rogers, reading your biography could have been, could have been taken from a blues song. Were what we call a runaway as a teenager.

Ms. ROGERS: Correct.

SIMON: Slept in abandoned cars, I gather.

Ms. ROGERS: Correct.

SIMON: You were in reform...

Ms. ROGERS: Homeless.

SIMON: Homeless. You were in reform school.

Ms. ROGERS: Right.

SIMON: Not a stranger to drugs or drink.

Ms. ROGERS: Right.

SIMON: But you've been sober for 20 years, right?

Ms. ROGERS: Twenty-one. It'll be 22 in February.

SIMON: So, does that give you a lot to make music about?

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, absolutely. That's where everything pretty much comes from. And a lot of the songs, I think, are healing, because (clears throat) - trying to heal, you know, physically and spiritually. And so it's definitely a story of my life.

SIMON: Let's hear some more music if we could. Let's listen to "The Plan."

Ms. ROGERS: Great.

(Soundbite of song, "The Plan")

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) Well, I've come too far to look back now. Just a little of faith turned it all around. I couldn't feel much better even if I tried, you know that everything is going as planned.

SIMON: So what does that lyric mean to you now: everything is going as planned?

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, it has a different meaning. When I wrote that, I really didn't know how sick I was, and you know, it has taken on a couple of meanings for me. But it's pretty much true. I mean, everything that I've done - got a little red house. I bought a house here in Charlotte area 20 years ago. And I've got a lot of friends and I'm very blessed. And yeah, it has a different meaning now since I've, you know, been diagnosed terminal, so...

SIMON: Yeah. You cover a bunch of this album with your husband, Tony Rogers, who also plays a guitar.

Ms. ROGERS: Yes. He's a wonderful, wonderful musician, amazing songwriter, songwriting partner. You know, he's everything. He's taking care of me now. I've made him unemployed, yeah.

SIMON: Well, he wants to be with you. He's doing what he wants to do.

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, I want him there. I would want no one else there. Yeah, he's my everything. It's like air smells better now, you know, water tastes good. It's just a sweet departure.

SIMON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: So tell me, please, about the opening track, "Baby Bye-Bye."

(Soundbite of song, "Baby Bye-Bye")

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) Say you never meant to hurt me. You say never meant to make me cry. Like a fool, I thought I could trust you. What you did, it can't be denied...

That was a song kind of based on a guy who does a girl wrong and she stands up. You know, she's strong and tells him (unintelligible) no more.

(Soundbite of song, "Baby Bye-Bye")

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) Bye-bye, baby, baby, bye-bye. You ain't gonna steal my pride. Bye-bye, baby, baby, bye-bye...

(Speaking) It's just a man-bashing song.

SIMON: A bad man-bashing song.

Ms. ROGERS: Yeah. She got into this crazy relationship. And that's not me, of course, 'cause I'm happily married. We've been together (unintelligible) yeah, we've been happily married. I hope he'll say that too. I feel like I'm in a wedding(ph) "The Newlywed Game."

SIMON: That's a good song.

Ms. ROGERS: Thank you.

SIMON: We're speaking with Robin Rogers. Her new album is "Back in the Fire."

You able to sing and play much now?

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, I've been working on a little bit at home. And I'm trying to just really concentrate right now on getting - fighting this tumor, 'cause I'm trying to come at it from all angles, you know, spiritual and physical and mental. You know, it's a lot for a person to be told they have a year to live. So I catch myself thinking about the past and looking at the future.

We're just kind of something I was tied in the program, in the 12 Step program, is you don't really think too far ahead other than a day at the time. And that's truly helped me, but it has changed a little bit 'cause I do have to think about the future and fighting, and so I've been concentrating on that instead of so much of the music right now.

SIMON: Yeah. Let me ask you about kind of a change of pace that you have on this album: your cover of Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad." One reviewer said - I'm going to share this phrase before we hear it - quote, "Robin's voice cracks in all the right places, making the ache of desire palpable."

(Soundbite of song, "Need Your Love So Bad")

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) I need someone's hands, to lead me through the night. I need someone's arms, to hold and squeeze me tight. And when the night begins, and until it ends, oh, I need your love so bad.

SIMON: Are you able to enjoy the success this album has had?

Ms. ROGERS: Not as much as I'd like to. You know, I haven't even toured behind the record, so it's amazing that it's this successful.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: There's one more cut we'd like to I'd like to listen to, and that's the final track of this CD, "What We're Worth."

(Soundbite of song, "What We Are Worth")

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) what we are worth. If I fall to the bottom, will you try and save me, or would you leave me laying lonely and hurt. Baby, I've been walking a good path. I thought I knew my way. I held a map but I still got lost. That's when I started to pray. Oh...

SIMON: Now, I hope you don't mind if I ask a couple of questions that the tune seems to suggest, OK?

Ms. ROGERS: Um-hum.

SIMON: And I realize that you, you know, recorded this before you knew quite how sick you were. Do you pray?

Ms. ROGERS: Yes, sir, every day. I was mad there when I got out of the hospital for a while. I was kind of angry. But I worked through several of those emotions and now I'm back there reading my meditations and, you know, 12 Step stuff and it helps a lot. You substitute alcohol for cancer, you know...

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. ROGERS: the literature, so...

SIMON: And is there something you can share with us that you've learned?

Ms. ROGERS: Yeah, I've learned that record labels are not all greedy and mean and like Mr. Scrooge, you know, over in the corner counting their beans. Blind Pig has been amazing. They've been totally amazing with all of this. And, you know, I've learned that time is fleeting. You need to do everything you can do while you have the chance.

SIMON: Well, there are a lot of people in your corner, Ms. Rogers.

Ms. ROGERS: Thank you. I'm sorry I got choked up there...

SIMON: That's all right.

Ms. ROGERS: ...a couple of times. It's just hard. It's hard news, you know?

SIMON: Well, thanks for all the time you've spent with us, OK?

Ms. ROGERS: Oh, you're quite welcome. And I know there's a bunch of people I should thank, but my memory ain't what it is used to be, but maybe it will be in a couple of days, if I get off this stuff, the chemo.

SIMON: I hope so.

Ms. ROGERS: Thank you.

SIMON: Robin Rogers in Charlotte. Her new CD on Blind Pig, "Back in the Fire."

(Soundbite of song, "What We Are Worth")

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) Well, we all need somebody to reach out and touch us, to hold us and hug us, tell us what we are worth.

SIMON: You can hear songs from "Back in the Fire" at

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.