Here are the facts. On March 17, Portland blues legend Curtis Salgado learned he has a tumor the size of a lemon on his liver. Because of complications caused by hepatitis C, which the singer has had for, he guesses, 20 years, the tumor is inoperable. And because of the size of the tumor, he cannot receive a liver transplant. Salgado has been told that under his current treatment—which seeks to shrink the tumor and get Salgado on the transplant list—he could live 10 to 16 months without a transplant. If all goes as planned, the treatment and transplant will cost Salgado upwards of $800,000. Like many working musicians, Salgado has no insurance. But he is not without support, as the lineup for this weekend's benefit concert at the Rose Garden attests. I spoke with Salgado while he prepared for a recent concert in Salem.
Did you ever consider not gigging?
No. That's what I do. I got music to make. I can't give up. I feel good.
Does it feel different to play now that you've been diagnosed?
Nothing has really changed. I've got a job to do, and I go out there to entertain and to kick some ass. I'm extremely competitive. I'm not gonna let cancer stop me from working. Now, if I do get a liver, it will probably take me out for a few months, but the bottom line is that I am in this record-tour-record cycle. I can't stop. Unless, of course, I sell a zilllion records, then I can take a break.
Is the cancer changing your music?
I don't feel like it is at this point. I'm certainly not going to mention cancer [in my songs]. Maybe it'll make me more introspective about life, but I write like that anyhow. Most of my songs are about love and life. Relationship gone good or gone bad. Really. I mean, it's all about love. That's what we all want.
But death is a big theme in a lot of music as well.
Well, I write in an R&B and blues genre and rock 'n' roll genre. And I don't sing about that. I would imagine that in alternative and stuff like that it can get a little darker.
Does death make you uncomfortable?
No. I'm certainly not uncomfortable. You know, life is.... Have you ever seen that movie What the Bleep Do We Know!?
Well, that's kind of the way that I feel about it. It's just like, "What the hell do we know?" Look, we're standing on a planet that's spinning around at 2,000 miles an hour and we're not falling off. And we're on the side of it. Have you seen where the United States is located? I mean it's on the side of a ball, and that ball is spinning around in a vast mass of a fucking universe. I mean, what the fuck is goin' on? I know I'm getting' kind of wild here, but that's a miracle, man. Don't you think so? Do you have an opinion on this?
Yeah. Well, you never know what's going to happen day to day. That's the excitement and the fear of the whole thing, right?
Yeah. How about the fact that I ate a couple of pancakes with some rhubarb compote on 'em, right? That's what gave me the gallstone attack. If the gallstone attack would have subsided, or not happened at all, I would have been dead by Christmas and never known the shit was there. That's the thing about liver cancer—there are no symptoms. Isn't that bizarre how that works out? It's right up there with standing on the side of the planet.
A benefit for the Curtis Salgado Fund, featuring the Curtis Salgado Band, Steve Miller, the Robert Cray Band, Taj Mahal, Everclear, The Phantom Blues Band and Little Charlie & the Nightcats will take place Tuesday, June 13, at the Rose Garden Theater of the Clouds. 7:30 pm. $35-$75 ($250 includes VIP after-party pass). All ages.