Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Melody Gardot, a jazz gem

The incomparable Melody Gardot...

Melody's voice drips sensuousness and Eartha Kitt-like sultriness. My favorite of her albums thus far, My One and Only Thrill followsAt 28, she's just begun...

Accident and Therapy

While cycling in Philadelphia in November 2003, she was hit by a car whose driver had ignored a red traffic light. In the accident she suffered serious head and spinal injuries.  Her pelvis was broken in two places. Because of these severe injuries she was confined to her hospital bed for a year and had to remain lying on her back. As a further consequence of her injuries she had to re-learn simple tasks such as brushing her teeth and walking. The most noticeable effect of the neural injuries she suffered is that she was left hyper-sensitive to both light and sound, therefore requiring her to wear dark sunglasses at nearly all times to shield her eyes.  The accident also resulted in both long and short term memory problems and difficulty with her sense of time. Gardot has described coping with this as like "climbing Mount Everest every day" as she often wakes with no memory of what she has to do that day.

Initially prompted by an attending physician who believed music would help her brain injury drastically improve, Gardot began writing music after her accident and now often speaks and advocates in favor of using music for therapy. The accident had damaged the neural pathways
between the brain's two cortices, which control perception and higher mental function, and made Gardot (in her own words) "a bit of a vegetable." As well as making it very hard for her to speak or communicate properly, she found it difficult to recall the right words to express her feelings.
Music, involving listening and making  verbal attempts to sing or hum, is thought to help the brain form new pathways. At first, Gardot learned to hum and was eventually able to sing into a tape recorder. She made good progress and was eventually able to write original songs that sometimes referred to her rehabilitation.

Gardot's doctor at the University of Medicine of New Jersey, Richard Jermyn, compared her condition to a computer. The computer was still intact and the memory was there but she could not access it. “That's what a brain injury does, it takes your ability to access that away”, Jermyn stated.

For several years after the accident Gardot traveled with a physiotherapist and carried a TENS machine strapped to her waist which released pain reducing impulses. While onstage Gardot explains, "the first maybe half 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." “It was a most unusual start, but when you come from a place where things are tough it makes it that much easier to appreciate the times when life is easy”, she said.

After her accident, Gardot could not listen to the music she had listened to before, as she could not tolerate anything above a whisper. Because of this, she had to find quieter, more soothing music to listen to. She recalls that while on the treadmill learning to walk again, she would listen to Stan Getz's The Bossa Nova Years album. Because Gardot could not sit comfortably at a piano, she learned to play guitar on her back while in the hospital and, shortly after, began to write her own music. During her recovery, she wrote material that later became part of a five song EP, “Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions” that Gardot produced herself.  Gardot was reluctant to record her songs at first, stating that they were too private for the public to hear. However she soon relented and her songs were soon being played on a Philadelphia radio station.

She was introduced to macrobiotics by a friend who lent her a book on its benefits. She began to experiment and cook for several hours a day. As well as reducing her pain levels, she believes that macrobiotics helped her mental ability to cope with pain, helping her relax as the routine of cooking helped take her mind off her physical condition and she also found that she was able to sleep more easily.


Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, I never heard of Melody Gardot Petra.

Really gorgeous voice. And an amazing success story. The human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

K. :)

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Isn't she wonderful, K? :))

I'm still so surprised at how unrecognized she is other than in the jazz community here in the United States.

sandyland said...

great post are you on fb??

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Thanks, Sandy! No, I'm not on facebook because it just doesn't allow enough breathing space.

Perhaps you're thinking of another Petra Michelle (Narette).

Unknown said...