Kevin Sharp’s battle with cancer helped launch his rise to country music stardom and helped him inspire those who heard him speak. Saturday, complications from the disease took his life 25 years after his battle with it began. He was 43.
Mr. Sharp, who attended Bella Vista High School, died at his family’s Fair Oaks home as a result of ailments from past stomach surgeries and digestive issues, said his sister Mary Huston. Born in Redding, he lived in Nashville before returning to California for his final battle.
“His music has touched thousands of people. He is truly an inspiration for people suffering,” Huston said.
In 1996, Mr. Sharp released his first album, “Measure of a Man,” which contained the Billboard country hit “Nobody Knows” and sold more than 500,000 copies. He released two other albums, “Love Is” in 1998 and “Make A Wish” in 2005.
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Mr. Sharp was a senior in high school when he mysteriously began to lose weight and experience odd aches and pains, forcing him to quit playing football, Huston said. He was diagnosed in the summer of 1987 with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Four months into his treatment, the Make-a-Wish foundation was able to grant his wish to meet music producer David Foster, said Michele Flynn, a spokeswoman for the Northeastern California Make-A-Wish chapter.
“He and his family flew to Hollywood in 1988 to meet Foster. Because of the bond they formed, Kevin visited him a few more times,” Flynn said.
Years later, when Foster was starting a label and seeking talent, the two were able to reconnect, launching Mr. Sharp’s music career with Asylum Records.
“It was such an honor and pleasure to participate in Kevin’s Make-A-Wish day some 20 years ago – none of us could have possibly known how that day would profoundly change Kevin’s life, propelling him into a world filled with music and allowing the world to fall in love with all of his musical talents,” said Foster, who remains active in the music industry as a producer, composer and musician.
News of Mr. Sharp’s death spread quickly throughout the Sacramento region, prompting an outpouring of emotion from fans and supporters. Among his biggest boosters were KNCI country radio hosts Pat and Tom. The duo offered an on-air tribute to Mr. Sharp, who had appeared often on the show over the years.
“Longtime listeners will recall that he was on our show frequently, talking about the recording process, sharing with us and our radio audience what Nashville was like, and giving us other one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes stories that we count as highlights of our radio career.
“We have so many wonderful memories of Kevin the countless interviews before, during and after his rise to fame,” Tom Mailey, wrote in a blog post about his passing. “Thank you for sharing yourself with us. You made the world a better place. We will miss you, friend.”
The Make-A-Wish connection went full circle in February 1997 when Mr. Sharp fulfilled a 7-year-old Texas boy’s wish by singing “Nobody Knows” for him at his hospital.
“The wish allowed me to fulfill my promise to Make-A-Wish (to be an ambassador) but, more importantly, (the wish) allowed me to give encouragement and love to a child that was fighting to stay alive and help a family during a devastating and impossible time,” Mr. Sharp said of the meeting.
Mr. Sharp’s family said the meeting with the young cancer victim changed the singer’s life and led to him taking on numerous speaking engagements. His story of survival is also chronicled in a book “Tragedy’s Gift: Surviving Cancer – The Kevin Sharp Story,” which Mr. Sharp wrote with Jeanne Gere. The book is another way for Mr. Sharp to connect with people, which was his true gift, Huston said.
“He didn’t sing a song that he couldn’t believe,” Huston said. “That is what separated him from other artists.”
Aside from Huston, Mr. Sharp is survived by brothers Ron Sharp, Greg Ron Sharp, Larry Ron Sharp, Richard Ron Sharp; sisters Lisa Doyle, Mary Huston, Genni Olive; and mother Elaine Sharp.
A service is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2110 California Circle, Rancho Cordova.