Well-known Indianapolis vocalist Cynthia Layne lost her battle with cancer Sunday evening Jan. 18. She was 51. Layne was preceded in death by her sister, Denise Bailey. She is survived by her daughter, Nina Harden, parents Beverly and Curtis Bailey; brother David Bailey and sister-in-law Scheri Bailey; and her former husband Michael Harden. Born in Dayton Ohio, Layne stated that she attended her first concert at age six, and was influenced by vocalists including Natalie Cole, Diana Ross, Phyllis Hyman, Teena Marie and Barbara Streisand.
Layne said that drums inspired her to experiment with her voice, which she considered a percussive instrument.
Following her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in 2012, Layne donated proceeds from her album sales at Owl Music Group to the Little Red Door, a nonprofit organization which assists cancer patients. She released “Reality” and “Beautiful Soul” with Owl.
Cynthia was viewed as a true performer, and was inducted into the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Hall of Fame in 2013. She often performed at area venues including the Chatterbox, the Jazz Kitchen, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Rick’s Boatyard. Fans recently saw Layne perform with other Owl Music Group artists at the Dec. 8 Gospel Jazz Experience at Latitude 360, which helped to raise support for the Indianapolis Julian Center.
Layne was diagnosed with a cancer recurrence in 2014.
“She was courageous and inspirational, even with her battle with cancer,” said jazz pianist Steve Allee.
Saxophonist Rob Dixon, who frequently performed with Layne, said that her death came as a surprise, and that family and friends had hoped to pursue further treatment. However, the vocalist’s condition rapidly deteriorated, Dixon said.
“She’ll be remembered for her high spirits, her beautiful smile, and her beautiful voice,” said Lisa Shoemake, an advertising representative for the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. “Her concept was about remembering old jazz, Sarah Lawrence and Dee Dee Bridgewater. She liked R & B, but she was more of a classic jazz singer.”
Shoemake said Layne became her friend since 1997, when they met at the former nightclub, Faces. “I looked at her, smiling because I was enjoying her music so much, she smiled back, and that was how the friendship began. She was a nice person, never met a stranger.”