“I’d fight the world,” sang Hank Cochran on his 1961 single of the same name, but in 2010 he lost a battle few can win: one with pancreatic cancer. It’s the same illness that took Waylon Jennings‘ longtime manager Nikki Mitchell, whose namesake foundation will honor seven Country Music Hall of Fame members and their family members who succumbed to the disease with “An Intimate Celebration” on April 1st at the Ford Theater in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The concert features acoustic performances from Carlene Carter, Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, the Secret Sisters, Angaleena Presley and more.
Mitchell, who passed in 2013, was the CEO of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter Music, and a trusted surrogate member of the family for 22 years. She created the foundation herself, after being handed a three-month prognosis by doctors — Mitchell lived 28 more than that. Since then, the charity has spearheaded events like Full Moon Full Life, which aims to raise money and awareness for the disease by capturing the power of country’s biggest stars (and beloved outlaws).
Other honorees that will be paid tribute at the event include Ray Price, the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers, Felice Bryant and Webb Pierce — all members of the Country Music Hall of Fame — along with music executive Merlin Littlefield. All suffered from or were touched in some way by the disease.
Johnson, who released a Hank Cochran tribute album in 2012, Living for a Song, has been an active member of the Nikki Mitchell Foundation board, and is a safe bet to sing some of the lost songwriting legend’s timeless songs. “I’m one of many of Hank’s fans,” he told Rolling Stone. “He had a lot of fans out there. He’s got a lot of fans that don’t even know they’re Hank Cochran fans. But when you go looking through his most popular songs, it’s undeniable. We’re all a Hank Cochran fan in one way or another.”
Pancreatic cancer, which often comes with a devastatingly low survival rate, has also impacted many musical icons outside of the country world, including Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, Count Basie, Luciano Pavarotti and Patrick Swayze. The Nashville event is open to the public, with tickets available through the Nikki Mitchell Foundation’s website.