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Barenaked Ladies Survives Keyboardist's Illness

By COREY LEVITAN, Fox News, September 12th 2000.

Cue the theme from Behind the Music.Just when the gleeful "One Week" gave the Barenaked Ladies the No. 1 single in America, the band's Kevin Hearn was lying in a cancer hospital bed, told he might have only one week to live.

In March 1998, the keyboardist was diagnosed with an aggressive case of leukemia.

"It was like I was looking at my life, but I wasn't there anymore," Hearn tells The Post, checking in from his band's hometown of Toronto. The Ladies temporarily replaced Hearn with a hometown friend, Chris Brown, and hit the road in a daze.

"We were touring and supposed to be having the time of our lives," says bassist Jim Creeggan. "But Kev was in the most intense parts of his chemotherapy, so it was a really confusing time."

Thanks to a blood stem cell transplant from his brother, Hearn has been in a delicate remission for about a year. He rejoined the Ladies in time to record their latest album, Maroon, due in stores Tuesday.

It seems strange for the knuckleheads who gave themselves that preposterous moniker, released an early single called "Be My Yoko Ono" and stitched together silly concert medleys out of Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From Titanic)."

But the quintet's new album resonates with the sting of maturity that inevitably follows human drama.

Produced by Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson and others), the follow-up to the band's multiplatinum 1998 album Stunt sports songs about traffic fatalities ("Tonight Is the Night That I Fell Asleep at the Wheel") and the ravages of war ("Helicopters").

Even the album's first single, "Pinch Me," eschews the pop-cultural puns of "One Week" ("like Sting I'm tantric") to tell the story of a lost soul sleepwalking through life. (Sample lyric: "On an evening such as this/ it's hard to tell if I exist/ If I pack the car and leave this town/ who'll notice that I'm not around?")