In the spring of 2013, life was looking especially sweet for Harry Hudson. The New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-bred singer and songwriter, one year out of a Swedish songwriting boot camp, had just released his debut single “World Is Gone” and watched it go to No. 1 on Hype Machine, where it remained for three days, out-pacing tracks by Maroon 5, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent. The buzz around the song, which Harry wrote with producer Danny Score, ignited interest from several record labels, including Universal Music’s Cherrytree Records (home to Ellie Goulding, Robyn, and Sting), which expressed interest in signing him. It was June 2013, three months after “World Is Gone” was released. Harry’s dream of being a recording artist seemed truly within reach for the first time since he crowded into a friend’s bathroom to record his early demos.
What Harry hadn’t told anyone was that he had been feeling poorly for several months. “I knew something was really wrong, and had seen several doctors, but I didn’t tell them what I thought it was because I didn’t want to hear it,” he admits. Several hours after he and his brother Remington (who is also his best friend and manager) met with Cherrytree, Harry woke up in the middle of the night with difficulty breathing. Because of his history with asthma, his mother rushed him to the ER. The doctors did some scans and discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor in his chest that was pressing on his airway. The eventual diagnosis: late-stage-three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Harry was 20 years old.
“My mom broke down when she saw the scan,” Harry recalls. “She started bawling and had to leave the room. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want my mom to cry, so I was laughing and trying to make a joke out of it.” The next day Harry was admitted to the hospital. “He didn’t talk for a week and a half,” Remington says of his normally voluble brother. “He just laid there.”
“I was thinking, ‘This is what I worked for so hard, getting a record deal,’” Harry says. “Then it was about trying to process the fact that I might die. I don’t know, I didn’t really want to talk to anybody. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t talking. My brother and I didn’t have the easiest childhood. We don’t come from money. Our mom was a single mother who worked. Our dad struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of our lives, so Remy basically raised me, he taught me everything. We’ve always been a team, and it felt like, ‘We finally have something going for us so we can take care of our mom.’ Then we got knocked down again. I thought, ‘I’m never going to catch a break.’”
Harry’s down mood, however, didn’t last long. After doing a biopsy on the tumor, the doctors told him that the cancer was curable with chemotherapy treatments. “From that moment, I was like, ‘I’m going to be fine. It’s not my time,’” he says. For seven months, Harry underwent grueling, five-hour chemotherapy sessions every two weeks — 12 in all. Already very active on social media, Harry decided to announce his illness publicly and document every stage of his treatment. “There are other young adults like me living with cancer,” he says. “I wanted to show the world that you can still be positive no matter what you’re dealing with, even if you’re dying, if you’re just happy with yourself. When I lost my hair, I shared a photo. No eyebrows? That’s funny.”
Adds Remy: “The statistic is that about 70,000 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. It’s an unusual age to get it, so they feel like they’re alone. I know Harry did. I could be there to comfort him, rub his back when he was throwing up, but I just didn’t know what he was going through. But there are kids out there who know and feel the way he did.”
“I want to be a voice for those kids,” Harry says.
To that end, Harry continued to make music, spending the weeks he wasn’t getting chemo in the studio recording the songs that will appear on his debut album, which he plans to release on June 21st, one year to the day since receiving his diagnosis. The first single is a sleek slice of “dark pop” (as Harry describes it) called “Learn 2 Love” with life-affirming lyrics about finding the silver lining in any situation. All proceeds from the single will go to benefit The American Cancer Society.
On January 9th, 2014, Harry’s doctors pronounced him cancer-free. With the disease in his rear-view mirror, Harry is devoting his life to being a role model for others, using his talent and musical gifts to inspire people to persevere and be positive. “Someone commented on my Instagram, ‘My son is a 21-year-old rapper and he has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. You’re pushing him through it to keep doing music,’” he says. “Reading stuff like that helped me feel less alone. That’s what I hope to do for others. If I can inspire one person to live their life to the fullest, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do."
As he Tweeted on November 23rd: “I cheated on my fears, broke up with my doubts, got engaged to my faith and now I’m marrying my dreams…”