Melody Gardot: Music therapy brought her back & sent her forward

Melody Gardot is a living, composing and singing example of the power of music therapy when it comes to recovering from, and overcoming, potentially life-disabling injuries.

At the age of 18, when she was studying fashion design in Philadelphia, Melody was out cycling in November of 2003 and was hit by a Jeep Cherokee SUV after its driver ran a red light. She was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with serious head and spinal injuries along with a pelvis that was shattered in two places. The injuries were so severe that Melody was confined to a hospital bed for a year.

The severity of the neural injuries resulted in several consequences:

  • Melody suffered from short-term and long-term memory loss, resulting in her "climbing Mount Everest everyday", as she puts it, because she often wakes with no memory of what she has to do that day, not unlike Drew Barrymore's character in the movie "50 First Dates"
  • She developed hyper-sensitivity to light and sound and has to wear dark glasses, which have also become one of her trademarks
  • Melody had to re-learn elementary things like walking or brushing her teeth and found it difficult to speak and recall the right words to express her feelings, leaving her feeling, as she says, "like a bit of a vegetable"
  • Part of her recovery involved music therapy which is thought to help the brain develop new pathways by listening and making a verbal attempt to sing or hum

Melody made good progress with the therapy and gradually began composing songs, some of which included themes related to her recovery. As a result she has become an advocate for using music therapy and its role in helping people recover from severe brain injuries and stroke.


Melody had always had an interest in music. She started music lessons at the age of 9 and played piano in Philadelphia area bars on the weekends when she was 16. While hospitalized, she learned how to play guitar and began composing her own music, eventually securing a recording contract after the radio station of the University of Philadelphia noticed her playing at area venues. It was the same radio station that helped discover Norah Jones.

The rest, as it's often said, is history. Melody now has a number of albums in her discography and frequently tours to promote her music. For many years after suffering her serious injuries, Melody traveled with a physiotherapist and often had a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit strapped around her waist as its pain-reducing impulses helped when performing in concert. She is also a proponent of macrobiotics, which, as Wikipedia explains, 'is a dietary regimen that involves eating grains as a staple food supplemented with other foodstuffs such as vegetables and beans, and avoiding the use of highly processed or refined foods. Macrobiotics also addresses the manner of eating by recommending against overeating and requiring that food be chewed thoroughly before swallowing'.

Melody Gardot also credits Buddhism as being a very important component of her recover. It's a philosophy that is manifested in her day to day living - Melody sold her apartment in Philadelphia and gave away most of her possessions. The few that remain fit into two suitcases as she tours around the world.

Laura Meddens, the Founder and Chairman of The Laura And Wagner Foundation was introduced to Melody's music in early 2010 and also let her father, Leo, know about it. Their favorite song of Melody's - "Our Love Is Easy" was played at Leo's funeral service following his sudden death on January 20th.

Laura hopes that if you are recovering from any kind of injury or facing the daily challenge of a sensory, physical or mental disability, that you find inspiration in Melody's story and spirit, and also in her music.

Watch and hear the music of Melody Gardot:

Click the album covers below to hear a song from each of them: An index of videos featuring the music of Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot's Pain & Triumph

She may have reached topped a key record chart in France and gained fans from around the world, but musician Melody Gardot tells CBS News' Anthony Mason about her chronic pain caused by an accident:

Watch CBS News Videos Online
Read more about Melody Gardot: Learn more about Melody and her music and check her latest tour dates

@Wikipedia: Read more about Melody's life and learn more about her music and spirit

@Wikipedia: read more about Melody's album "Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions (2005)

@Wikipedia: read more about Melody's album "Worrisome Heart (2008)

@Wikipedia: read more about Melody's album "Live from SoHo (2009)

@Wikipedia: read more about Melody's album "My One And Only Thrill (2009)

Mike May: The Challenges Of Seeing Again After 43 Years


Mike May shown in both photos above after regaining his vision. The photo on the right by Florence Low shows Mike seeing his sons for the very first time on his first new day of vision. You can read more about Mike's story on the People page of our Spirit section.

How would you feel if, after having lost your vision at the age of three, you were offered a chance to get it back over four decades later? Most of us would likely jump at the opportunity, but for Mike May it was a chance that would come with some surprising adjustments.

Mike's a pretty incredible and intrepid guy. He never let his lack of sight be an excuse for a lack of living, persevering to play flag football in elementary school, intramural soccer in college and going on to set a world downhill skiing speed record, work with the CIA, be a pioneer in the development of assistive GPS navigation technology for the blind, and raise two boys with his wife Jennifer.

But when the first mention, in 1999, of the 50/50 chance of restoring his vision through a stem cell operation came up,  the floodgates opened up all sorts of questions, positive and downright scary.
As the summary of the 2006 book about Mike's life, Crashing Through by Robert Kurston, puts it:

"Then, in 1999, a chance encounter brought startling news: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May's vision. It would allow him to drive, to read, to see his children's faces. He began to contemplate an astonishing new world: Would music still sound the same? Would sex be different? Would he recognize himself in the mirror? Would his marriage survive? Would he still be Mike May?

The procedure was filled with risks, some of them deadly, others beyond May's wildest dreams. Even if the surgery worked, history was against him. Fewer than twenty cases were known worldwide in which a person gained vision after a lifetime of blindness. Each of those people suffered desperate consequences we can scarcely imagine.

There were countless reasons for May to pass on vision. He could think of only a single reason to go forward. Whatever his decision, he knew it would change his life"

Just what went into his decision, and how it changed it his life, Mike explained via a Skype interview with Laura Meddens, the Founder and Chairman of The Laura And Wagner Foundation. You can watch the video below or click here to see and hear it @YouTube.

Read and see more about Mike May Learn more about Mike May and Sendero Group's assistive devices Read more about 'Crashing Through' - the book and movie about Mike's life The official site for the book 'Crashing Through' Read more about Mike May's life and accomplishments Watch a video profile of Mike May on CBS News Sunday Morning Watch a video of Mike's comments about 'Disabled Attitudes' from

Hear And Now: The Challenges Of Hearing For The First Time at 65

If you were offered the chance to hear for the very first time at the age of 65 after living in silence your entire life, would you take it? That was the choice facing Paul and Sally Taylor. In a very moving film by their daughter Irene Taylor Brodsky, we learn about Paul and Sally's journey from their early years learning to communicate in a special school for the deaf, through experiencing the stigma surrounding deafness in mainstream high schools, to careers - she as a teacher and college secretary - he as an engineer and retired professor who helped develop the TTY telecommunications system for the deaf.


As described on the HBO page about the documentary, "When the Taylors announced just before retirement that they planned to get cochlear implants - a breakthrough technology that could give them the ability to hear - their decision was met with mixed feelings by their daughter.  'After this surgery, who will they be?' she asks. 'Will they still be deaf people or hearing people, or will they be something in between'.

Will they be, as Mike May describes in the previous video on this page, a 'hybrid'?.

As their journey progresses we follow the highs and lows, post-surgery, of Paul driving through the car wash twice a day just to hear the symphony of noises, and Sally feeling more and more frustrated because she's not getting the same results as her husband.

This review of 'Hear And Now' by Peter Debruge appeared in Variety magazine and online at the time of its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007:

"Not to be confused with the Oscar-nominated docu "Sound and Fury," Irene Taylor Brodsky's "Hear and Now" examines cochlear implant surgery through the eyes -- and ears -- of the filmmaker's own parents. Both deaf since birth, the couple decides to undergo the operation together at age 65, optimistic but ultimately unprepared for the results. Helmer's personal connection to her subjects heightens the extremes of their emotional journey, with Taylor Brodsky serving as a thoughtful if admittedly non-objective observer. Sundance exposure should widen awareness, but HBO production feels best suited for TV, where families can watch with hankies ready.

Though Taylor Brodsky focuses exclusively on her parents, Paul and Sally Taylor, this is no amateur home movie. Helmer easily might have expanded the scope to include other patients considering the controversial surgery, only to diminish the intimacy the film achieves. Pic asks auds not only to consider the hearing they take for granted but also to imagine the effect of experiencing sound for the first time after a lifetime of silence."

"By framing her parents' marriage as an enduring love story, Taylor Brodsky suggests an idyllic silent world disrupted by the late-in-life addition of this new dimension. Before surgery, the couple appears holding hands on long, wordless walks or working together to read lips in group conversations. Friends since the age of 3, when they met as classmates at the Central Institute for the Deaf, the pair learned to navigate their disability together.

More "Oprah" than "Frontline," pic uses casual handheld camerawork and introspective narration to chart their transformation. Though hardly the standard in the documentary world, Taylor Brodsky's sentimental human-interest approach is far more likely to resonate with casual or classroom auds. More seasoned viewers may find it simplistic, however. "They've been daydreaming about sound their whole lives," she muses. "But what if hearing ... disappoints us all?"

Sure enough, the procedure doesn't go entirely as planned. The operation itself is presented in unblinking detail, yet it's nothing auds haven't seen in plastic-surgery and medical documentaries featured regularly on cable television.


A short month later, Paul and Sally's first hearing moments seem miraculous indeed, as Paul searches for the words to define what he's experiencing: "That's a tough question. How do you describe what green looks like?" He drives through the car wash twice in one day, just to soak up the machine's jet-engine symphony.

But in the weeks that follow, all that changes, as Paul adjusts more quickly to the mechanical implant, while Sally struggles to distinguish sounds, quickly losing patience with the device. Suddenly there is a disparity between them that creates tension in their relationship. At a Christmas family gathering, Paul plays air guitar to a music CD, while Sally sits with her ear pressed to the speaker, relying on the vibrations to detect the rhythm.

Taylor Brodsky's film echoes her parents' heartbreak, constantly shifting away from the medical advice (in short, these things take time and demand patience) to capture their frustration. Like the wrenching personal accounts of cancer survivors, "Hear and Now" unlocks the psychological side of their experience, with raw emotion smoothing over the intimate pic's less cinematic qualities."

Camera (color/B&W, 8mm archival and DV-to-HD), Taylor Brodsky, Crofton Diack; music, Joel Goodman; sound (SDDS), Michael Gandsey; senior producer, Eve Epstein; associate producer, Diack. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Jan. 12, 2007. (In Sundance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 85 MIN.

Read and see more about 'Hear And Now' Watch the video trailer of 'Hear And Now' Read the Synopsis of the film and an interview with the filmmaker & other resources Read more about 'Hear and Now' and its awards at various film festivals Watch an interview with filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky @ the Biografilm Festival Read more about 'Hear And Now' @ The Internet Movie Database

Quotations to lift your spirit

A collection of remarkable words to lift your spirit in those moments when some of the challenges we all face in life weigh heavier than they need to.


Henri Nouwen:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

James Baldwin:
For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

Mairead Maguire:

We frail humans are at one time capable of the greatest good and, at the same time, capable of the greatest evil. Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change too.

Pema Chodron:
When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.


Dorothy Thompson:

Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.

Eleanor Roosevelt:
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

Helen Keller:
I long to accomplish a great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.

John Quincy Adams:
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

Keshavan Nair:

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.

Susan B. Anthony:
Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.

Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.


Anais Nin:

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

Andy Warhol:
They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Eric Hoffer:
In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Ivy Baker Priest:
The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.

Katharine Butler Hathaway:

A person needs at intervals to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change.

M. Scott Peck:

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.


Dale Carnegie:
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Jane Addams:
Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.

Robert Frost:
The best way out is always through.

Thomas Alva Edison:
Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.