Fred Ho: Just don’t call him a survivor

It ain’t easy being green, but it’s even harder fighting cancer.

There’s no shortage of labels to be applied to Fred Ho — jazz composer, baritone saxophonist, Asian-American activist, Marxist Matriarchal Luddite, revolutionary, nudist — but don’t call him a survivor.

In his new book, “Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior,” Ho traces his battle with colorectal cancer through the diary entries posted to his friends and supporters, starting with his diagnosis in 2006 and running through his most recent (fourth) recurrence in 2010.

“I want readers to realize that cancer is not a disease,” Ho says, “but an accelerative malignant process inextricable from the expansion of industrial capitalism. Capitalism is cancer for the planet; cancer is the social and environmental toxicity of capitalism for the individual person.”

As always, Ho’s art, life and politics are inextricable from one another. The same has long been true of his music, which has by no means been slowed by his illness. His work draws influences from jazz, pop culture, radical politics, Asian culture and comic books. No less than five new CDs have appeared recently, including a big-band suite honoring Muhammad Ali and an opera inspired by martial arts films and manga.

“This spate of CDs is my effort to cement my musical legacy, as I expected to die having been given no chance of living after tumor number four,” Ho asserts. “It is my manifestation of the samurai warrior credo: living while preparing for death.”


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