Friday, May 25, 2018


A very short time before I knew I had a brain tumor, my boyfriend, Aiden, and I went to the Bearsville Theater – near Woodstock, NY – and heard the singer Robbie Dupree. I've loved his music since I was a young woman.

One of my favorite songs of his – and one that he performed that night – was “Steal Away.” When I woke up after the seven-hour surgery done to remove my brain tumor, the neurosurgeon told me to sing songs so he could check my memory. The first song I sang was that one.

Right after that, I sang “Amazing Grace” and then the Mickey Mouse Mouseketeers’ song (“M.I.C.K.E.Y.  M.O.U.S.E…”). I got many of the words to all three songs correct. The brain surgeon told me to listen to music all the time and work on remembering the words.

I did just that as soon as I was driven home from NYU. I sat in Aiden’s car’s backseat as he and a friend of his drove me home. I looked out of my window and cried while I tried to remember the words to “New York, New York,” as we drove home from the hospital in NYC. Aiden and his friend talked throughout my happy tears as I sang away. The radio wasn't even on but the car was full of music. I cried those happy tears because I was alive.

A few years later, I was at a coffee shop getting my favorite cup. As I self-served, the song “Still the One” by Orleans was playing. I'll talk to anyone – including strangers – and so I just casually asked the guy next to me if the bandmates who wrote that song were still with their original partners. I just talk and talk and talk. Little did I know I was asking someone who would actually know the answer.

That guy said they all were still with their partners, the ones still alive.  I asked him how he knew that, and he said it is because he works with a lot of the bands that play at the Bearsville Theater. I told him I had just been there to see Robbie Dupree again. Then I told the stranger a story he had already heard, but little did I know that. This is what I told him:

I went to hear Robbie Dupree's songs again after my surgery. I bumped into Robbie near the restrooms before he performed. I told him the story about what had taken place at NYU when I first woke up after my tumor was removed.

Robbie said it was “cool.”

During his performance a few minutes later, Robbie sang “Steal Away.” I figured he would announce to the audience that he had just met a woman who sang all the words to his song when she awoke after brain surgery. But – he said nothing to the crowd, and so I just assumed that the story was no big deal to him.

The stranger at the coffee shop who worked with Robbie told me that he's been on the road with the band ever since the night I told him my story. The stranger told me that Robbie has announced my “cool story” to every audience since.

I asked why he had not done that the night I told him all about it. The man said, “Mr. Dupree did not want to embarrass you.”

I smiled and paid for my coffee. That news felt wonderful.

Well – fast-forward more time, and I bumped into Robbie again at Price Chopper food store in Saugerties, NY. He recognized me, gave me a hug, and asked how I was feeling.

I told him I was okay but had some brain damage. Then I told him I heard that he was telling my story when he performed. He said he does this because musicians love to learn how their music affects others.

I started singing “Steal Away” as he paid for his pretzels.

The young people at the register said they were thrilled to meet someone their mothers loved to listen to.

To this day, every time “Steal Away” plays on the radio, I think of that hospital recovery room bed and the staff filming my singing and hugging the brain surgeon. “Why don't we steal away…?”

Robbie Dupree isn’t the only famous person I’ve met. Somewhere in my book, I mention my telling the Village People how people usually form the letter “M” at wedding receptions, when their song “YMCA” is played. But, another famous person whose music I love and whom I served, was James Taylor. I was a teacher for the Pine Plains School District by day, and a waitress in Hyde Park, NY (at a restaurant once called “The Springwood Inn”) by night. This excellent musician had just performed in Poughkeepsie and came over to the restaurant with the owner (Renée). He ordered something to drink, and as I poured it, he asked if he could use the house phone. I peeked into the kitchen and asked Renée if it was okay (because this was in the 1980s – pre-cell-phone times). Of course, she said he could, so I rudely eavesdropped on him calling his ex, Carly Simon, about their son. He was a very sweet and gentle customer. As the song states so well, “shower the people you love with love.”

          Just a short time after my brain surgery, I met Judy Collins. She sang “Over the Rainbow” on a CD for a book about that beautiful song. She came to a church in Rhinebeck, NY, and performed for a small group of us who came to listen to her beautiful voice and also to have her sign our books. I started to cry as she signed mine and another one I bought for my mother since my mom is a huge fan of hers. Judy Collins touched my hand as she signed her autograph and asked why I cried. I told her I had just survived brain surgery and I was happy to be here. She wrote me a very sweet note in my book:

“To Janet,
May you sing the song of life!
Judy Collins”

          So – if I’ve met other famous folks, I can’t remember them anymore. You can see from all of these examples how much music has played a part in my life. Rest in peace, John Denver, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Karen Carpenter, Donna Summer, Glenn Frey, Jim Croce, Sonny Bono, Bob Marley, The Gibbs Brothers, Barry White, Dan Fogelberg, Davy Jones, George Michael, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy, and so many more whose music I love and who are gone too soon….


For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, The excerpts are from the almost-final version. 

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats from and from its publisher, 



Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NYI [DWC] attended, along with almost 40 other people. The talk was especially well received, with several questions at the end, as well. Congratulations, Janet!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 

She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 

She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.

On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.

On 6/9/18 Janet will be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon.

On 6/11/18 Janet will be at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.

On 6/20/18 Janet will be at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.

On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

On 7/23/18 Janet will be at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.

More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY.

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