Cat Janice, Singer With Cancer Who Left Her Son a Dance Track, Dies at 31

Cat Janice, Singer With Cancer Who Left Her Son a Dance Track, Dies at 31

Cat Janice, a singer and songwriter who released a buoyant pop track from hospice that galvanized her thousands of supporters online to sway, and even groove, in the face of tragedy, died on Wednesday at her family home in Annandale, Va. She was 31.

The cause was sarcoma, according to William Ipsan, her brother.

The singer and multi-instrumentalist, whose legal name was Catherine Ipsan, started writing music as a teenager and released it throughout her 20s. But “Dance You Outta My Head,” which she shared on social media alongside candid discussion of her grueling cancer treatments, quickly became the biggest hit of her career. Over disco-inflected guitar and exuberant strings, she sang about “dancing on the edge of disaster.”

Ms. Ipsan released the song on Jan. 19, a few days after entering hospice care. The song caught fire as her health outlook darkened, with social media users — including celebrities like Jason Derulo — leaving messages of support.

It became a common soundtrack on TikTok after Ms. Ipsan encouraged her followers to stream the song as a way of supporting her 7-year-old son, Loren, after her death. “I am leaving this song behind for my son,” she wrote on TikTok. In another post, she said she had “changed all the rights from my songs so every presave and every stream goes to Loren.”

The song has been used in more than two million TikTok videos and became the singer’s first song to enter the Billboard charts.

“I’m praying my story isn’t over yet,” she wrote in a post on her birthday, the day after the song’s release. “But if it is, this is a pretty incredible way to say goodbye.”

Catherine Janice Ipsan was born on Jan. 20, 1993, one of four children in a musical family outside Washington, D.C. She played violin and piano, while her brother sometimes accompanied her on drums. Their mother was a radio D.J. who instilled a love of music in her kids, Mr. Ipsan, 27, said in an interview this month: “We’d be singing every lyric to the Eagles and the Beatles and all the oldies.”

According to her brother, Ms. Ipsan was also a science nerd, who studied geology at George Mason University before going to work as a geospatial analyst. But writing songs remained her outlet, he said. “If she’s stressed or anything, she’ll go do music.”

In 2022 she was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that she first noticed as a lump in her neck. She underwent surgery and more than a dozen rounds of chemotherapy, her brother said. She posted personal updates on TikTok, including videos of shaving her head and writing music while undergoing treatment. She released an album, “Modern Medicine,” in July 2023.

“Cat’s always sharing what she’s got going on,” said her husband, Kyle Higginbotham, 36, also a musician. “It just happened to be that cancer was what she had going on her last year.”

She continued to perform at venues in the Washington area during treatment, sometimes alongside Mr. Higginbotham, who recalled taking his wife to rounds of chemo, then playing a show with her the very next day. They got engaged onstage in August, at her album release show, and married in December.

She started writing “Dance You Outta My Head” over the summer, while in the car with Loren, Mr. Ipsan said. She sent a demo to Austin Bello, a producer she had worked with for more than seven years, and asked him to mix the track.

“What always impressed me was the clarity with which her edits would come,” Mr. Bello said, offering as an example of one of her notes, “At one minute and 22 seconds, turn down the harmonies 2.2 dB.”

The success of “Dance You Outta My Head” was gratifying but also painful, Mr. Ipsan said. “She’s happy that she’s been doing music for so long and it’s getting the appreciation she deserves,” he said. But the outpouring of supportive messages from fans did not erase her disappointment that she probably would never get to go on a headlining tour or attend the Grammy Awards.

She spent her final weeks at her family home in Annandale, baking bread and getting matching tattoos with family members. Mr. Higginbotham and Loren often sat by her side, making beats on electronic drum pads. When she was feeling strong enough, she hummed.

Mr. Higginbotham said he hoped his wife’s music career would be remembered as more than a “sob story.”

“It’s not just, some girl made a song because she’s dying of cancer,” he said. “Cat’s a real-deal artist and poured every minute of her life into it, right up until the end.”