Melody Gardot (Jazz Singer) and Music Therapy for Her Chronic Pain Following a Near-Fatal Bicycle/Jeep Accident

Dear Pain Matters blog readers,

In live jazz concerts, Melody Gardot’s fans can expect to see her walk on stage with a walking cane, tinted glasses …. and her elegant 4-inch stiletto heels.



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Born on 2 February, 1985, tragedy struck the (then 18-year old) fashion and art student in Philadelphia, USA, on 11 November 2003.  While riding her bicycle through an intersection, she was smashed to the ground by a Jeep Cherokee who ran a red light while making an illegal left turn.  Quoting Melody:

“And the next thing is, I remember I heard this sound, and I thought, ‘Who is that? What is that?’ And I realized that it was me screaming.”

She remembers that she was unable to move.  On a scale from 0 to 10, her pain was ’40’.

Melody’s near-fatal injuries were severe and extensive and included serious skeletal and neurological damage including a fractured pelvis (broken in 2 places), injured spine and traumatic brain injury.  While bedridden in a body cast on her back in hospital for a year, she had therapy to learn to walk and talk again.  Her memory (both long- and short-term) was poor and she couldn’t remember what happened an hour ago, let alone earlier in the day, nor what she had eaten.  She couldn’t do simple tasks like brush her teeth or take a shower.  She felt as if she was 85 and helpless.  Post-accident, she became hypersensitive to loud noises and bright light (protected by her tinted glasses) and she now carries a cane for possible vertigo attacks.

Melody suffers from near-constant physical pain including chronic lower back pain since her bicycle/Jeep accident.  

YouTubes: Melody Gardot (See YouTubes 1 and 2 of 4 – The Accidental Musician)

WARNING: Graphic visual and audio footage from 10:05 to 10:57 minutes in the first ( YouTube and from 5:32 to 5:47 minutes in the second (2.nd) YouTube that simulates Melody’s near-fatal bicycle accident.  Do not watch these parts if sensitive to accident scenery. 


Music Therapy for Chronic Pain:

Melody decided she would rather live with the chronic pain than take her pain medication, along with all the nasty side effects that made her very sick.

When the doctor found out that she used to play piano in local piano bars, he suggested that she try music therapy instead for her chronic pain.

For Melody, this was the best medical advice for her pain.  Music therapy succeeded where medication (and all its adverse effects) and therapy failed.

Interestingly, onstage, sometimes she does not feel the chronic pain.  Quoting her:

“The first maybe half a dozen times experiencing this, that was the only 30 minutes in my life that I did not feel pain for that moment. And it was addictive.”

Melody, a talented songwriter, expressed the trauma from her accident by composing ‘Some Lessons’ (See YouTube: Melody Gardot (Part 2 – The Accidental Musician), above; Lyrics, below).  Understandably, she won’t sing this song anymore.

Other Therapy:

Melody also does yoga, Pilates, osteopathic treatment and craniosacral therapy.


Not only did music therapy offer Melody Gardot a second lease on life, but it also brought Melody back to a life worth living despite chronic pain.  Music helped Melody make sense of her chronic pain caused by her accident.

Music therapy opened doors to a successful jazz career that Melody may not otherwise have had, and enabled her to make the most of a terrible tragedy.

An international jazz sensation was born from the wreckage of a bicycle/Jeep accident that lead to her injuries and chronic pain.

Sabina Walker

PS  Here are the lyrics to a song written by Melody, in response to her fateful, near-fatal accident on 11.11.2003:

“Some Lessons” 


Well I’m buckled up inside
It’s a miracle that I’m alive
I do not think I can survive
On bread and wine alone
To think that I could have fallen
A centimeter to the left
Would not be here to see the sunset
Or have myself a time

Well why do the hands of time
So easily unwind
Some lessons we learn the hard way
Some lessons don’t come easy
That’s the price we have to pay
Some lessons we learn the hard way
They don’t come right off and right easy
That’s why they say some lessons learned we learn the hard way

Remember the sound of the pavement
World turned upside down
City streets unlined and empty
Not a soul around
Life goes away in a flash
Right before your eyes
If I think real hard well I reckon
I’ve had some real good times


(1) Melody Gardot’s music career was born in pain

Robert Everett-Green

The Globe and Mail, 3 July, 2012

(2) How Melody Gardot found her voice

Anthony Mason

CBS News, 24 January, 2010

(3) From death’s door to earning the keys to the world

Stephen Holden

The New York Times, 14 October, 2009








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