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Cat Janice, singer who died of cancer, told her family to 'keep the music going'

Over the years, many of Cat Janice’s songs came to her in the car.

But the last song she released before she died was a joint effort with her favorite passenger: her 7-year-old son Loren.

Last spring, the two spontaneously began singing the refrain, “Dance until you love me,” as Janice drove, scrambling to record the moment in a voice note. A little less than a year later, the D.C.-based singer's disco hit, “Dance You Outta My Head,” reached the Billboard charts just as she entered hospice care.

“She had a bunch of music she could have released,” her brother Will Ipsan, who makes his own music under the moniker Cubby, said. “But she really wanted to leave everybody with something more on the positive side.”

After initially undergoing treatment for a rare sarcoma in 2022, Janice learned that her cancer had returned to her lungs last May. She documented the following months of grief, prayer, and patchy hair loss on TikTok before she died in her childhood home on Feb. 28.

Leading up to the release of “Dance You Outta My Head” on Jan. 19, the day before her 31st birthday, Janice announced that she’d signed her music rights over to Loren. As her last wish, she asked her followers to stream it for him.

“I wish I could say these words to you but lung cancer has stolen my voice. So all I ask is one favor of pre saving my final song in my bio,” Janice wrote. “I want my last song to bring joy and fun! It’s all I’ve ever wanted through my battle with cancer.”

In response, thousands posted videos of themselves dancing to the track — some while receiving their own cancer treatment. The song has now been used in more than 2 million TikTok videos.

Austin Bello, Janice’s longtime producer, said he didn’t expect the song to gain traction like it did.

“But I’m nothing but happy that her story got to be told,” he said. “I feel like it deserves that.”

It was Janice’s lyricism and rich vocal delivery that got Bello’s attention, he said, but he grew to marvel at her artistry.

“The art that she was creating was something that was coming out of her organically and naturally,” Bello said, chuckling as if amused by her effortlessness. “It’s just this beautiful thing where you don’t have to dig and search for something creative. It was just there.”

When it came to production, Janice knew what she wanted, exactly how it sounded in her head.

“My job was to try to hop into her brain and see what she was saying,” Bello said.

It’s a task Ipsan faces too, as he decides what to do with his sister’s unreleased catalog.

They had been mulling posthumous releases, he said, but Janice’s health declined more quickly than they expected.

One song, though, she was very clear about.

“It’s a lullaby that she wrote for Loren,” Ipsan said, "just for him to be able to listen to on the airwaves, whenever he’s on his way to sleep, or whenever he wants to.”

“There’s no big strategy,” he added. “I just scheduled it for release and that’ll be it.”

Ipsan didn’t disclose a release date, but he said the song will be on either Spotify or SoundCloud soon. He also said he will be posting "bite-sized" content to memorialize Janice on her Instagram while he plans a formal memorial service at her childhood church.

As for the rest, Ipsan is trying his best to do as Janice asked him: “Just keep the music going.”

“Part of that charge for me as her brother is making sure that her son, that same spark for music carries over to him,” Ipsan said.

Janice’s husband, Kyle Higginbotham — also a musician — just gave Loren a bass, so he seems to be on the right track.

Like Janice was, Loren is easily excited, loves the outdoors, and always opts for a book over a video game.

“He’s not an iPad kid by any means,” Ipsan said. “It’s such a blessing that we have him, because he’s so much like her.”

On the day Janice died, Ipsan said he and his siblings listened to her songs, comforted by the sound of her voice.

“My sister Meredith, she said, ‘I’m so thankful that we have this music.'"

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.