Famed Classical Pianist Van Cliburn Dies of Bone Cancer

Bone cancer complications end life of virtuoso pianist

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Van Cliburn - the famed pianist - has died of complications of bone cancer. He had been battling advanced bone cancer since last August. 

Cliburn died in his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 78.

"If you experience bone pain, talk to your doctor."

Cliburn burst on the scene when he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.

Cliburn, whose birth name was Harvey Lavan Cliburn, Jr., was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was a musical child prodigy, showing great skill after starting piano lessons at age 3.

After his family moved to the tiny Texas town of Kilgore, Cliburn started playing with the Houston Symphony at age 12, entered Julliard at the age of 17 and performed with New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall when he was 20.

After the Moscow win, the tall, good-looking pianist became an overnight sensation. He performed in concerts, made records and had a fan club that rivaled Elvis's.

He was sort of that era's David Bowie in looks. It's said he caused riots when spotted on the street.

Bone cancer is fairly rare in the United States, with just fewer than 3,000 Americans diagnosed with it every year. There are several forms of the disease that affect various parts of the skeleton - everywhere from the thigh bone or cartilage to the spinal cord. It could also appear as too much bone growth.

It's unclear what complications led to Cliburn's ultimate death.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 27, 2013
Last Updated:
February 27, 2013