Saying Goodbye to a Great

I remember it as clear as day.

For a music lover, it was an abundance of riches.  The Folk Festival team had spent several hours listening to dozens of artists from across the world – any of whom would be welcome additions to the Folk Festival lineup, and making recommendations about which performers would be tapped to join the lineup in 2013.

Of all the music we heard, one artist stood out to me, capturing me with her sound, her selections, and her passion more than any other. Her name was Sista Monica Parker.

Sista Monica’s bluesy-soulful sounds resonated with me so much that I went home and looked up more of her music (quite possibly this one and this one). I talked with Heather McCarthy, American Folk Festival Executive Director, numerous times about Sista Monica’s sound, saying how thrilled I – and blues fans everywhere – would be if Sista Monica could join us at the AFF.

Much to my delight, Sista Monica was on the list of artists for the 2013 American Folk Festival. She was amazing. Just as amazing as I had hoped. She had the crowd on their feet in the dance tent, and captivated at the Railroad stage with every note she sung. I was musically in love. I had a chance encounter with Sista Monica that year and was nearly trembling as I told her that I’ve become such a big fan of her and her music. I asked her for a picture. She agreed.

After the festival was over, I did a little more research on Sista Monica and found out that she was a cancer survivor. This was relevant to me at the time because of the sheer number of friends and relatives I have who have fought this awful disease. But the fact that Sista Monica was a cancer survivor became relevant once more because I saw on her Facebook page in late summer of 2014 that she had been diagnosed again – this time with Stage 4 lung cancer.

I hoped for the best, and sent a few positive messages on a site called Caring Bridge – it’s a website devoted to connecting family and friends with people during times of hope and healing.

But on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, news came that Sista Monica died from cancer at the age of 58.

Her music and passion for it will live on. She was a tremendous performer, and by all accounts a wonderful person.

If you missed her at the American Folk Festival of 2013,  you truly missed out on seeing one of the greats. You can still find her music on CD or for download, and you can read more about her here in a newspaper story about her passing from her hometown of Santa Cruz.

All of us involved with the American Folk Festival offer condolences to Sista Monica’s family, friends, and fans. She was one of a kind.

Dan Cashman

About Dan Cashman

Dan Cashman has been involved with the American Folk Festival since 2011 and is currently serving on the board of the Festival. For more information about the American Folk Festival, visit