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Kevin Sharp’s Wish

Singer-songwriter Kevin Sharp was a friend of a friend of a friend. I did not know him personally but, like a lot of country music followers (especially those older than about 35) and fans of Dr. Phil, I knew something about him and his music.

Sharp’s debut single “Nobody Knows,” a cover of the Tony Rich Project’s pop track, reached the top of the U.S. and Canadian country charts in 1996. Two follow-ups, “She’s Sure Taking It Well” (my personal favorite Sharp song) and “If You Love Somebody,” made it into the top 10. It was a promising start to a young entertainer’s career.

But it also proved to be the high point of a body of work and of a life that were both cut short. Sharp died April 19 of “ongoing complications of past stomach surgeries and digestive issues.” He was 43.

By most measures, Sharp’s life was only about half as long as he might have hoped, yet it proved to be much longer than his doctors once expected. At 18 he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, and physicians treating him predicted he had less than a year to live. But two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatment put his cancer into remission, permanently costing him his hair along the way. (The fans who saw him perform, years later, did not seem to mind.)

The Make-A-Wish Foundation contacted the teenager while he was fighting his cancer and asked if there was some dream it could help him fulfill. Most young men his age probably would have asked to travel to a far-off destination or to meet a famous athlete or performer. But Sharp wanted to meet David Foster, a top record producer (then and now) whose collaborators have ranged from Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand to Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige. Foster and Make-A-Wish obliged with a meeting that both Foster and Sharp later described to a national audience on Dr. Phil’s popular TV show, as well as in other venues.

When he was back on his feet, Sharp sent Foster a demo tape. Impressed with the young baritone’s talent, Foster helped arrange a deal with Nashville’s Asylum records, which released Sharp’s first two studio albums, Measure of a Man (1996) and Love Is (1998). Sales trailed off, however, and Asylum ultimately dropped him. Sharp’s final album, aptly titled Make a Wish, was released in 2005 by Cupit Records. Neither the final album nor any of its tracks made the charts.

By that time, however, Sharp had moved on to work a motivational speaker and as a spokesman for Make-A-Wish. Meeting Sharp became the wish that several children made when they fought their own battles against life-threatening conditions. According to his website, Sharp was the first “wish child” to become the object of other wish children.

Hearing about Sharp’s death reminded me that it is not how long we live that matters most; it is how well we live. He may have only had half the time that an average man might want, but he lived to more than double the age that his doctors once expected. He made the most of it.

I went to kevinsharp.com today to make a donation to Make-A-Wish in his memory, as his family requested. I could not think of a better way to honor the man whose music and story inspired so many, and the friend of my friend’s friend, than by granting this very small wish.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business."

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