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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Musician Rob Morsberger Faces His Own Mortality

Rob Morsberger. (Photo Courtesy of Rob Morsberger)

Rob Morsberger. (Photo Courtesy of Rob Morsberger)

It’s happened to all of us, seeing a loved one or a friend die. It’s happening now to one of our Here & Now friends. His name is Rob Morsberger. He’s 53 and he’s in what he acknowledges is the final stage of terminal brain cancer.

Rob Morsberger is a musician, singer and composer. His songs are literate and catchy. We’ve had him on the show a couple of times to talk about his music and his mortality, and the promise he made to be as creative as possible after he was diagnosed in the fall of 2011. He’s kept that promise, releasing three CDs of new music along with a new double CD called “Early Work,” songs he wrote in the 1980s and ’90s that he recently recorded with artists such as Loudon Wainwright III, Suzzy Roche and Marshall Crenshaw. It was work he said he might have tossed into the digital dustbin if he hadn’t gone back to it.

“I debated whether it was worth revisiting that work,” he said, “and I was really so happy to find that I liked the work and thought it was good and it was worthwhile.”

It’s funny. I’ve never met Morsberger but via Facebook we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, through posts about books and things. (I don’t think he liked Richard Ford’s “Canada” as much as I did.) So it was really difficult for me to produce what everyone involved felt might be our last conversation with him.

“It’s all good in my book. It’s part of my journey and other people have similar journeys. I view it as a journey and I view it as one that I’m very grateful for, for the most part, in fact in every way. And I feel really fortunate that I had time to get most of the things right that mattered to me, my personal story and my musical story. As far as I’m concerned everything worked out great.”


  • Rob Morsberger, musician

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  • JM

    Beautiful interview. Thank you to both of you for your willingness to be vulnerable.

  • Doug Sweet

    Robin, No need to feel like a wuss for actually having feelings during an interview. You are very, very good at what you do.  Would that all of us could face our own demise with the aplomb of Rob Morsberger.  Thanks for that, as I wipe my own tears.  

  • Drp2792

    That was one of the most beautiful interviews I’ve ever heard.  Thank you.

  • anon

    Thanks for making me cry on my lunch break, Robin. But really, beautiful interview.

  • Maria

    God bless you, Mr.  Morsberger. You’ve given me a glimpse of heaven on earth. Thanks for such a heart-felt interview.

  • anon

    Very touching interview that hit close to home.  I too have an eight year old son and am living with cancer.  I was surprised how closely Mr. Morsberger’s attitude towards his situation mirrors mine.  It was uplifting hearing about Rob’s journey as I continue on one of my own.  Thanks so much to you both.

  • http://twitter.com/ThePorscheMama PorscheMama

    I lost it when Mr. Morsberger mentioned having to talk to his 8 year old son about his inevitable death. It was a conversation I thought I would have to have with my own 8 year old daughters about two years ago. God bless you, Mr. Morsberger, and keep you safe on your journey. Thank you for all the gifts of music and wisdom you have so generously left us. I am in awe.

  • Becky

    What an incredibly brave man. I feel fortunate to have been listening. And thank you, Robin, for not being afraid of showing your humanity.

  • LM2

    Such a wonderful and beautiful conversation. What a courageous and gentle soul. No shame in tears Robin. There isn’t a dry eye in the house. Well Done!

  • Mattlink13

    Wow! What a great interview. I instantly fell in love with this man’s music. Thank you for this interview. Your connection and humanity to Rob was a great testament to your interviewing skills.

  • Jeffsfitzhugh

    Wow, I listen to NPR every day to the stories and interviews with great interest but this one hit me right in the heart.  I loved the music that I heard and want to hear more so I will be searching for his other musical works.  God Bless you on your forever journey.  My grandmother once told me that the only things that you can take with you are your memories and your music.

  • Cras Jharris

    Robin, Thank you for bringing Mr. Morsberger’s  work to our attention. Great interview..

  • Elissa

    Thank you Robin for a beautiful interview and giving your listeners, such as myself, a moment to make our hearts “feel” in the middle of our busy days.  That is a true gift -  as Rob is to fans and music lover alike.

  • Skeezy99

    Robin, more emotion makes you feel human. There is a frightening lack of honest emotion, on news and elsewhere in our society….perhaps THAT is the problem!!!

  • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

    Thanks for all the great comments. I have to say again what a great pleasure it has been to come into contact with Rob Morsberger. I’m so glad we had the chance to be a part of his life.  

  • KMH

    I don’t know where to start.  What a brave conversation, both Rob and Robin.  Honest feelings are so strong. 

  • AT

    Beautiful and touching. Such dignity and insight.

  • alexandra s.m.

    Thank You so much for this deeply moving interview.

  • Da2z

    I agree with JM a beautiful interview. I just happened to catch the interview while I was sitting at the computer.    Thank you for your courage to do the interview and his courage to speak so simply and to the point

  • Gbc3

    Thank you for a beautiful interview and thank you both for sharing such an intimate piece of yourselves with your listeners.

  • KSHD

    THIS is why I listen to WBUR. Beautiful, honest interview, Robin. Thank you

  • Tom

    One of the most beautiful, humanizing, and REAL moments I have ever heard on the radio or in any form of media.  How can a father’s struggle with terminal cancer be uplifting?  Somehow it was… and it taught me how to approach death when it comes.  Robin…you are what journalism should be…exposing, connecting, teaching, enhancing and perpetually learning.  I guess that description fits Rob as an artist too.

  • Don

    Mr. Mosberger and Robin – a wonderful conversation for so many reasons.  Thanks to you both!

  • Lfwb01

    It appears that all of your listeners who heard this extraordinary conversation between the two of you had a similar reaction – that we were hearing, and feeling a part of, a few minutes of humanity at it’s most compelling and involving. Although not greatly familiar with hid work, Mr. Morsberger’s openness and frankness, and your heartfelt interaction , touched me, and made me cry in my car in a resturant parking lot as if I knew him well. There’s always deep sadness around the loss of a person in the prime of life, but this interview also showed us that the human spirit can triumph over that sadness and journey into a kind of hopefulness and acceptance. Thanks very much .

  • Michele Barry

    What a touching and compelling interview!  Robin and Rob, your open hearts touched many of ours.  Thanks!

  • aknman49

    I don’t want to lose such a talented, wonderful person.
    Life (and death) really is not fair.

  • RakuSteve

    Thank you Robin! Your loving care came through to all of us! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your feelings with everyone listening! As I drove from Columbus, Ohio down to Galipolis on the Ohio River I wept with you while being amazed at the reassurances we were given by Rob!

    Thank you Rob! Thank you for sharing your journey so eloquently and allowing us to join you if we choose to! I for one will find you in the future of my own journey in many ways and many places! Your “little guy” will be in our hearts as well! Thank you!

  • Jasoturner

    Awesome.  Our thinking about mortality is so clumsy usually.  This is truly grace.

  • Frank Riley

    I relate to this story because our son Danny, who was a buddy musician, died of brain cancer at age 19 five years ago, www,dannyriley.com. Like Rob, he was positive in the face of life’s deepest challenge. 

    As Rob says:” We are going to around in some way that don’t understand.” Touching interview!Frank Riley

  • susanthe

    Thank you for this interview, Robin – and especially you, Rob. We’re all going to die, but as a society we don’t deal with it or acknowledge it in any kind of healthy way. It was very moving to hear honesty around death and dying. I sobbed right along with you, Robin. 

  • Aliza Wasserman

    so sweet and raw. thank you both for your honesty.

  • Rob Morsberger

    Thank you for all these incredibly kind comments, which mean so much to me.  And thanks especially to Robin and Alex.  What a team.  Heart felt gratitude to all.  

  • Paul in Calabash

    Once the interview started I had to pull my car over in order to listen closely. Thank you Rob, Robin…

  • Leona Juris

    I had never heard of this man before reading this piece. Thank you for sharing such a gift with the universe (that is FB is it not? ) I just listen a few more times and let the tears stream……………

  • Tina Shafer

    Rob is such an amazing musician and lyricist. I have been blessed to have him at The New York Songwriters Circle where he always lit up our stage.  Thank you for the grace of your music Rob.

    Tina Shafer   
    Artistic Director

  • http://twitter.com/PanRight Perry Anne Norton

    Rob Morsberger has great courage and has taught so many people so much about life – and how death is just another part of it. I’m greatly inspired and absolutely grateful he, his friendship and his music will always be a part of my life.

  • Jamey Reilly

    Hi Robin,
    A loving and sensitive interview with a musical genius and good friend. Rob and I have had this discussion a few times… and he really and truly sees the “big mystery” with full acceptance and a sense of waiting eagerly to see what’s next. Rob has performed a few times at my music venue in Philadelphia since his diagnosis, and the audience was never the wiser for the silent burden he carried within. He is a beautiful man, and I count myself fortunate for his light and friendship in my life. I too will miss him very much. Thank you for all the good work that you do.

  • Barbara

    Rob I keep the photo of you and Elan from the CD on my desk. Thank you
    for your gifts and giving.

  • Tim Ayres

    Thank you for being a friend to Rob and his wonderful music, and for this beautiful interview.

  • Elanahayden

    Sadly, Rob Morsberger passed away today. This remarkable man – and his music – will live in our hearts. RIP, my friend. ♥

  • drmo

    I hope I live to see that day that talented, sweet people don’t die of cancer.  RIP Rob (who succumbed to his illness yesterday) and best wishes to his family. 

  • Wordygirl

    Robin, I had not forgotten your beautiful conversation with Rob Morsberger since I heard it a couple of months ago.  When I read about his death this morning, I was thankful that such a wise and joyful life had touched mine, through a series of discussions on Here and Now.  His death is great loss to this world, but his life was an even greater gift.  Thank you for sharing him with the rest of us, and for expressing to him what your listeners were feeling.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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