SISTA MONICA PARKER
April 27, 1956 - Oct. 9, 2014
By Lee Hildebrand - SFGate www.sfgate.com
Blues, soul and gospel singer Monica Parker, known professionally as Sista Monica, battled cancer twice during the past decade. Diagnosed in 2004 with synovial
sarcoma under her right arm, she was given only three months to live, but she survived and carried on her simultaneous careers as a Silicon Valley corporate recruiter
and international performing artist. She wasn't as fortunate the second time, when complications from cancer in her right lung ended her life Oct. 9 at Kaiser
Permanente Hospital in Modesto. She was 58.
Known for her big, brassy, gospel-imbued contralto pipes and highly emotive way with songs, many of which she wrote herself, Ms. Parker gave her final performance
at Yoshi's in Oakland on Sept. 2 with the aid of an oxygen tank. She had announced her illness on Facebook several days earlier, and the club was packed with
friends, family and fans.
"The different emotions she would take an audience through during a performance - from happiness to sadness - were just really wonderful," said Leon Joyce
Jr., Ms. Parker's drummer for the past three years.
"I always looked at her career as a source of inspiration as something I could work towards," said fast-rising Oakland blues and soul singer Terrie Odabi.
Ms. Parker was scheduled to appear as part of Odabi's Sept. 13 "Soul Divas" show at the Fenix in San Rafael, but had to cancel due to the effects of chemotherapy.
Ms. Parker began singing at age 7 at a Baptist church in her native Gary, Indiana. She joined the Marine Corps at 21 and spent the bulk of her three-year
stint as a recruiter. From shortly after her discharge until recently, she worked as a job recruiter for such firms as Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems,
Dolby Laboratories and Amazon.
Having debuted as a blues singer and bandleader in 1992 in Santa Cruz, Ms. Parker went on to record 11 CDs for her own Mo Muscle label - nine of them blues and soul,
two gospel - and appeared at festivals and clubs and on blues cruises throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and in Turkey and Mexico. She was named
"Best Blues Artist" at the California Music Awards in 1998, and was nominated for the "Beat Soul Blues Female Artist" award by the Blues Foundation
in Memphis in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
She found no contradiction in singing both blues and gospel music. "Blues has some of the same rhythms and chord changes that gospel does," she
said during an August 11 interview at her home in Mountain House (San Joaquin County). "There's a lot of truth in both blues and gospel. That's why I
write both. Maya Angelou said, 'People don't think about what you say; they think about how you make them feel.' I would like to make people feel uplifted
"She slipped away peacefully and quietly into the presence of the Lord," Ms. Parker's friend and musical associate Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge
Church of Christ in Oakland wrote in an e-mail. "Now she can breathe again, sing with the spirit and the ancestors and worship in the presence of her creator.
She has taken her wings and joined the heavenly choir."
Ms. Parker is survived by her sister, Charlotte Parker of Castro Valley, and brothers Barryington Parker and Garland Parker, both of Gary, Indiana. The
family suggests that donations in her memory be made to Healing Journeys at www.healingjourneys.org.
A memorial service is slated for 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at Inner Light Ministries, 5630 Soquel Drive in Soquel (Santa Cruz County).