Charlotte Diamond celebrates her return to the stage
Charlotte Diamond sang all the songs the kids wanted to hear—”I am a Pizza,” “Octopus (Slippery Fish)” and “Four Hugs a Day.” A breast cancer diagnosis didn’t change anything. It certainly didn’t stop her from performing a Christmas concert at Lansdowne Centre that’s been a Richmond tradition since 1995.
Diamond had kept it quiet. But following last year’s show, she had surgery and spent the next eight months undergoing chemotherapy. It put her longtime stage career on hold.
“It was like being a caged lion,” she said in an interview with The Richmond Review. “It really was.”
Having regained her health, this month she’s celebrating with two concerts—including a return to Lansdowne Centre Sunday, Dec. 15.
“I’m through my cancer treatments. I’m on the other side. I’m feeling great, and I’ve got all this musical energy. I feel like I’m vibrating with it, so I know these are going to be excellent shows. For me it’s going to be a celebration to be out there again.”
At the Richmond show she’ll officially release of her first book, Slippery Fish in Hawai’i, a 20-page children’s board book whose illustrations bring to life one of her best known songs “Octopus (Slippery Fish).”
The book also marks a new chapter in the performing artist’s 28-year career—and it came almost unexpectedly. Speaking at a conference in Hawaii, word trickled down to a publisher about the popularity of her songs. Soon Diamond had a publishing offer. Illustrator John Aardema brought one of her best known songs to life with drawings of Hawaii’s vibrant underwater world.
“Of all the things I’ve written I’m just so proud the book is out because it reflects it’s an international song now,” she said.
Born and raised in Richmond, Diamond is a former junior high school teacher who began singing and writing songs when her own two boys came along. She developed a preschool music program, which led to performances at her children’s parent-participation preschool. Word spread and soon Diamond was out with her own independently-released album.
She now has over a dozen albums to her credit, along with countless concerts and speaking engagements.
Putting on the brakes earlier this year—and cancelling shows—was hard. But cancer didn’t get her down. Diamond was the chatty one during chemotherapy. The one who brought a lion puppet to hospital and decorated the treatment room.
In the midst of her cancer fight, Diamond’s friend and longtime accompanist Bob Wishinski lost his. The pianist, singer and member of Diamond’s Hug Bug Band died of lung cancer in April. The two had performed together for 35 years, including at last year’s Lansdowne show. His handiwork is also featured on the original recording of the song that’s now also a book.
The talented Linnea Good is now filling his shoes with the Hug Bug Band, but his sound hasn’t disappeared. Her son Matthew—who plays guitar and sings with the band—has picked up some of his licks.
“Bob is always there. I’m hearing his parts,” said Diamond. “He played the most spectacular music up until a month or two before he passed away.”
Diamond recently released a best-of compilation, 24 Carrot Diamond: The Best of Charlotte Diamond—a collection of 24 of her best known songs from the past 25 years. It’s a testament to her music’s enduring quality and widespread popularity. Last year popular daytime TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz sang “Four Hugs a Day” on The Dr. Oz Show in an episode about the importance of showing affection.
Diamond said when she first recorded those popular children’s songs, she hoped they would last, in the same way songs she learned as a child became part of who she is.
“I hoped that that’s what would happen—that parents would sing them and grandparents, and it would go on through the generations. It seems to have done that.”
During cancer treatments Diamond lost her hair and wrote a story in poem form she called The Lion Who Lost His Mane. It’s about adapting to change: the lion loses his mane, but his buddies—giraffe, hyena and zebra—stick with him and come up with ideas of what he could do.
Diamond hopes her writing will become a book someday. But right now she’s encouraging women to get mammograms—how her cancer was discovered—and is concentrating on returning to the stage.
“I’m definitely roaring and raring to go. I think of that Katy Perry song ‘Roar.’ I think sometimes performers are like that. We really really like to do our art form.”
•Sunday, Dec. 8: Holiday Celebration with Hug Bug Band and ShowStoppers, 11 a.m. at Vancouver Playhouse; tickets are $25 at TicketsTonight.ca or 604-684-2787
•Sunday, Dec. 15: Holiday Delight Concert with Hug Bug Band, 1 p.m. at Lansdowne Centre mall; free
•Diamond’s new board book Slippery Fish in Hawai’i is available at charlottediamond.com and Splash Toy Shop (3580 Moncton St.)