Suzanne Couch is dead

By Sade Gardner
Observer writer

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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Singer and caterer Suzanne Couch died yesterday at a Mexican facility, less than one month after her last public performance at the Hope in The Hills concert in Strawberry Hills, St Andrew.

Couch, who had been battling stage four triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer since 2016, was being treated at Clinica CIPAG, where she died. She was 56 years old.

The singer's husband, Peter, confirmed her death to the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Couch had undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the Hope Institute of Jamaica, and sought advance care in Mexico. Initial treatment cost was more than US$25,000. A GoFundMe account was created for Couch on June 25 with a target of US$100,000, of which US$17,850 has been raised.

In an effort to raise funds for the Hope Institute of Jamaica, a clinic catering to financially disadvantaged cancer patients, Couch orchestrated a benefit concert on June 10. She received the support of singers Sarah (her daughter) and British star Joss Stone. Toots Hibbert, who was not rostered, also graced the stage with the ladies in a performance of Bam Bam and 54-46 Was My Number.

Suzanne Couch admitted to attendees that she was far from feeling her best, but delivered an emotional performance. She also catered at the event through her eponymous company.

“This experience has been very emotional for me,” she told the Jamaica Observer at the time. “I've been wanting to do this show for two years; we had some issues getting sponsorship. Even though there were challenges, I knew that I had to keep pushing because I am sick. It's incurable and it's spreading. I'm in a lot of pain and I'm taking a lot of drugs right now. The next stage after this is treatment.”

Hope in The Hills was a celebratory occasion; Couch invited guests on stage to dance, and she also went into the crowd to spread her cheer. There were tear-fighting moments too, as she shared her diagnosis with patrons but did not neglect her humour, adding commentary in-between songs and asking guests if they enjoyed her food.

With her Big Band, she performed jazzy, island-flavoured tracks like Water Wash Over Me, What Tomorrow Brings and Smile. She also performed songs from her days in the group F O U R, including At the Drop of A Heart and A Little More Love.

Childhood friend Marie Matthews was one of 400 patrons in attendance.

“She was the most selfless person in the world, even in the pain,” Matthews told the Observer yesterday. “I remember calling her two days after the concert to tell her she was absolutely remarkable, and she told me she was just shivering in the bed, just shivering. And she wasn't even complaining.”

Couch studied piano at the University of Florida in the late 1970s before returning to Jamaica to join the band Native, which included Peter and songwriter Brian Jobson. In her 2018 YouTube series Chewn In, Couch said she co-wrote over 100 songs with Jobson.

After working with musician/producers Steely and Clevie, she released her debut album Lifeline in 2001. It featured 12 tracks including Put Me Together Again and How Sweet the Night. Her sophomore set, the 14-track In the Rhythm, was released in 2005; it contained songs like Wonderful and Sigh of Relief.

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