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Kevin Sharp, Country Singer with High-Profile Cancer Battle, Dies at 43

04/20/2014 at 06:15 PM EDT

kevin sharp dead
Kevin Sharp
Courtesy Photo
Kevin Sharp, who became a country music star as he beat the odds against cancer in an inspirational fight in the 1990s, died Saturday at age 43.

Best known for the No. 1 hit "Nobody Knows," Sharp died Saturday of complications from past stomach surgeries and digestive issues, according to his Website.

A musician raised in Redding, Calif., Sharp followed an unconventional path to success.

Diagnosed as a young man with the blood cancer Ewing's sarcoma, he battled for his life while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants requests to terminally ill children and teens, learned he was an aspiring musician and arranged a meeting with famed music producer David Foster, which led to a record deal.

His debut 1996 album Measure of a Man went gold on the strength of "Nobody Knows." Other albums followed and Sharp became a motivational speaker, heavily involved in Make-a-Wish.

"I feel like I'm here for a purpose," he told PEOPLE in 1996. "I've learned to love unconditionally, to appreciate life."

A memorial is being planned for Nashville.

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