Beloved YouTube songwriter Zach Sobiech dies of cancer

Zach Sobiech touched 3.5 million hearts when he posted "Clouds," his song about dealing with mortality, onto YouTube in December.

 

Chase Hoffberger

Internet Culture

Published May 21, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 3:26 pm CDT

It is with a heavy heart that we relay the news that Zach Sobiech, the Minnesota teenager whose acoustic guitar song “Clouds” went wild on YouTube last year, died of cancer Monday morning. He was 18 years old. 

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Sobiech had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that develops in children and affects only 800 people each year, when he was 14. Doctors gave him just a few months to live, but he outlasted expectations. Last December, he grabbed his guitar and recorded a song called “Clouds,” a song about saying goodbye that went viral on YouTube and turned Sobiech into a household name. More than 3.5 million people watched Sobiech perform “Clouds.” 

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The song also inspired a celebrity-filled remake, one featuring lip-synched contributions from Ed Helms, Jenna Elfman, Jason Mraz, and Sarah Silverman. Since its posting onto YouTube May 6, the song has attracted more than 1 million views. 

Sobiech died Monday morning at his home surrounded by his family and girlfriend, according to a notice his mother made on her son’s CaringBridge page. 

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“Our family has been blessed not only by his amazing presence, but also by the love and support of our family and friends and by so many people in the community,” her family offered in a statement. “In particular we’d like to thank those people who listened with their hearts and helped Zach bring his message and his music to the world.”

Sobiech celebrated his 18th birthday on May 3. A few days after that, he attended his senior prom. He’s survived by his parents, three siblings, and and endless supply of friends and admirers. 

“It’s just, try and make people happy,” he recently explained in a SoulPancake documentary. “Maybe you have to learn it over time, maybe you have to learn it the hard way, but as long as you learn it, you’re going to make the world a better place.”

One high-profile fan of Sobiech’s is the author John Green, whose novel The Fault in Our Stars features a lead character with osteosarcoma.

“A kid who went down fighting and didn’t really lose.” Watch Soulpancake’s extraordinary video about Zach Sobiech: youtube.com/watch?v=9NjKgV…

— John Green (@realjohngreen) May 21, 2013

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Photo via The Whooly Rhino/YouTube

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*First Published: May 21, 2013, 9:42 am CDT