Longtime HIV Survivor Uses Singing as the Best Form of Therapy
Joshua Grodsky has lived with HIV for three decades. He never thought he’d live as long as he has, much less live long enough to be pursuing his dream. Grodsky, who has already performed several shows at Martuni’s and at Society Cabaret, returns to Society Cabaret on Saturday night, July 8, where he’ll perform an evening of romantic love ballads from generations past. Grodsky is calling his show You’re Gonna Hear From Me.
“I’m pursuing my dream at this time because I will no longer settle for a life of regret,” Grodsky told B.A.S . “Singing is about the only thing remaining of me which I feel I can still do reasonably well. Singing is the gift from God I have to share with the world. Singing is what I do. I do it for love. If I never make a dime from it, I’d still do it because music is great therapy and medicine in my life!”
A San Francisco native, Grodsky’s family moved away during his childhood. He lived in different parts of the country over the years, and even spent some time in Brazil, but he never stopped yearning to return to his hometown. It was after his HIV diagnosis that the incomparable services which the City offers to the HIV community which made it possible for him to return.
“I was able to return to the City with the assistance of a HOPWA voucher and got my first studio apartment in the Outer Richmond in 2009,” he said. “Coming out was difficult for me, since coming from a Jewish/Catholic background I had guilt in stereo! But after starts and stops, I officially came out when I joined the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in 2011 and I sang with them for three years.”
Grodsky considers his survival to be nothing more than a miracle–at the time of his initial diagnosis HIV was still an automatic death sentence. “I think I sero-converted when living back in the City in 1982,” he recalls. “I finally tested positive in 1987, so that makes this over 30 years I’ve been living with the disease. I’ve been on every cocktail and suffered from many side effects, including neuropathy from Zerit, kidney stones from Crixivan, diabetes from God knows what, and of course, a life-long battle with depression before any of the other diagnoses hit.”
There were a few close calls along the way, but Grodsky survived them all. Here’s here, he’s Queer, and on Saturday night, Society Cabaret patrons are gonna hear from him. Grodsky promises to present an evening of romance to his audience.
“I’ll be singing the music of Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Rodgers & Hart, Jules Styne and Jimmy Webb, to name a few,” he said. “This music of the Great American Songbook affords infinitely hummable melodies with wonderfully crafted words. The kind of music they’re rarely writing anymore.”
Grodsky “sang” the praises of his back-up band. “I take these traditional standards and with the help of Dave Austin’s ‘Trio de Swing’ (Dave of keys, John Clarke on bass and Jerry Pannone on drums) turn them into fun jazz arrangements. I’ll also be featuring a guest singer, Jenny Brannigan, with whom I’ll be dueting a couple of numbers.”
Grodsky cites singing legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra among his musical idols. He’ll no doubt borrow from each of their deeply emotional styles as he shares his own emotion laden story through his music.
“Included is information about the songs and how they reflect to the story of my life,” Grodsky explains. “A life of survival, disappointments and overcoming challenges to forge a career as a retro singer. My reason and purpose has become to keep singing this music and sharing it with a new generation of listeners, thereby keeping it alive.”
Grodsky describes his shows as part “psycho-therapy” for his audience. “I reveal some hidden truths that resonate for all,” he said. “It’s going to be a lively show with beautiful music that should prove well worth the price of admission.”
Check Joshua Grodsky out on Saturday night at Society Cabaret, inside the Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter Street. The show will commence at 8pm. Buy tickets here.