In late 1998 Larkin was diagnosed with lung cancer. At the concert of November 26, 1999 in Cleveland, Ohio, he collapsed on stage during the show’s finale. Even while suffering, he remained positive, saying
‘Whatever God wants is fine by me … I’ve had the very best life. I have tasted beauty.’
He died at his home in Los Angeles on December 3, 1999 at the age of 57. He was surrounded by his wife Judy, his mother Harriet, and his brother Bill.
Larkin suffered from a severe stutter by the time he learned to speak which led to an emotionally traumatic childhood. At age twelve, he began to learn piano.
The piano provided him with a means of artistic expression to compensate for his speech difficulties, and he ‘hid behind [the] piano because [he] was scared to speak’.
Starting school can be daunting for any child. For a child who stutters, school years can be a wonderfully supportive experience or they can be a time when life is particularly difficult.
Children who stutter can face extreme challenges and experience social difficulties, being teased or bullied regularly. Children who stutter are rated as less popular than their classmates.
Some of them may appear shy and quiet and teachers may not even be aware that they have a child who stutters in their class. Children who stutter avoid speaking in class or sit at the back of the classroom to avoid being noticed.
They are especially sensitive to evaluation by teachers and may answer ‘I do not know’ because they are afraid of stuttering.
They avoid difficult words or opportunities to speak, instead using gestures and short sentences to communicate, or they allow other children to talk for them.
For these children, simple classroom tasks like reading out loud, presenting news, or asking the teacher a question can be a source of anxiety and embarrassment.
Larkin became a professional jazz pianist in the 1970’s and 1980’s, playing many engagements in jazz clubs around Los Angeles. To advance his career in 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin, Germany.
From there, he discovered the jazz culture and started playing gigs. This was when he decided to take a monumental step away from his insecurities and add singing to his act for the first time.
Soon after, his agent thought of combining scat-singing with modern dance music and hip hop effects. Larkin was resistant at first, terrified of being laughed at and criticized once again.
He was worried that listeners would realize he stuttered, and his wife suggested that he talk about it directly in his music.