first_imgSANTA CLARITA A dying musician, fueled by the power of positive thought, taps into technology to craft songs listeners hear worldwide. With the help of social networking Web site and some music software, Jim Leitch records, composes, mixes and distributes songs from his Valencia bedside. “He’s had setbacks, but he forges forward and looks for ways to motivate himself to stay alive,” said Tim Leitch, 51, Jim’s brother, who lives in Portland, Ore. He sees cancer as an obstacle but says it shouldn’t put an end to life’s endeavors. “Are you going to stop everything, or circumvent problems and proceed?” he said. “It’s just another challenge.” A recording engineer and touring rocker since the 1970s with musicians including Emitt Rhodes, Leitch has lost band mates along the way. Leitch got an inkling of his own problem last year while jamming with a Brazilian drummer in Los Angeles. “I heard some really sloppy performing on my part (and) said that’s really not like me,” Leitch recalled. He relied on an earlier keyboard rendition for the recording and weeks later learned the cause of his subpar skills. Neither brain surgery nor chemotherapy could obliterate the entire tumor mass. “The diagnosis was I was terminal … and might last two to three weeks – in May of last year,” he said. Bedridden and immobilized on his right side, the left-handed musician was riddled with doubt about the future. His optimism was revived by friends and a hospice team determined to bring his music back. Dana Blatt, a close friend for 32 years, got Leitch back on the computer and, eventually, onto MySpace. “That is your way to expose your music to the world,” Blatt recalled telling him. Leitch, incorporating his middle name, is known as James Craig, and his latest recording can be heard via a link on The MySpace profile has received more than 500 hits. Leitch never married. His parents died years ago, and his four brothers reside in Portland and North Carolina. He has left his home in Sunland-Tujunga to live with Larry and Irma Russell, close friends who provide loving care. “It’s kind of an honor,” Irma Russell said. “He never wants to bother (us). He’s always very appreciative for anything and everything we do.” Leitch entered a hospice program in November. He’s visited by a home health aide, a nurse, a social worker and a chaplain. “We try to focus on the best quality of life at the end of life,” said Maria Jefferson, the social worker, noting she’s impressed with his outlook and devotion to his art. “The central core to his being is music; his everything is music,” said David Barile, 34, who has jammed with Leitch in clubs, coffeehouses and bars during their decade-long friendship. An animator by trade who plays bass on the side, Barile looks up to his friend. “He’s very much a spiritual mentor to me as well; he’s a very Zen guy,” Barile said. Leitch’s determination to rerecord the botched song immediately after surgery illustrates Barile’s point. “It sounded good,” Leitch said. “I guess it’s just one of those things for me. Art has a kind of cycle. You want to complete, like a flower, what it’s setting out to do. Then you can let go.” The song’s title: “You Never Know When.” Patients are generally placed in hospice care when it appears they have six months or less to live. Leitch beat leukemia in 2004, but Jefferson said he’ll remain in the program. In the meantime, he has made tremendous headway. “He was in bed with his eyes closed. Now he’s going out to sushi – that’s a really big improvement!” Blatt said hopefully. [email protected] (661) 257-5255 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Last year, Jim Leitch, 56, learned he has terminal brain cancer. The diagnosis has sidelined him, but he refuses to let it put the kibosh on his career. For his latest effort, Leitch recorded vocals and electric piano tracks on a computer setup by his bed. Soon he will add instrumentals. A drum track recorded in Brazil is on another project. Themes in his songs range from spirituality to relationships gone bad to spaghetti-Western takeoffs. Leitch’s right side is paralyzed, leaving him unable to play guitar, but his voice and his spirit are intact. “How do you find the impetus to proceed? … It seems to be about trust, because you never know what’s next,” Leitch said. “As long as you’re loving what you do, it seems all by itself something will lead you around the next corner.” last_img