In the realm of music and medicine, the late Kerry Landreth Reed, lead vocalist with Birdseed, a band that grew out of the musical community surrounding the Bird School in San Francisco, chronicled in a beautiful and poignant way what singing, songwriting and performing meant to her in the last years of her life as she bravely went through treatment for cancer.
Her Life Tribute in the SF Chronicle on December 10, 2017 noted that “She had developed a talent for singing as a child, performing in a capella groups in high school and college, and she rediscovered her love for singing at age 39, joining fellow school parents as the lead vocalist in a band called Birdseed. She thrived in the spotlight and found a new creative outlet penning several original songs for the band. Music was medicine for Kerry. She kept performing, even when she no longer had the strength to stand onstage, and played her last show just a month before she died. In Kerry’s own words, from her lyrics to the song, Rewind: “Nothing I ever did or ever said was wasted. I’ve got no regrets, I’ve shed my reward. Every adventure truly was tasted. So I stop the rewind in my mind. I say thanks for all behind me: all that made life what it is today, all that’s evil, all that’s kind.”
She played one of her last concerts for Bread & Roses Fall Benefit with Birdseed at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley on October 24, 2017 with other band members including Lane Murchison (bass), Mason Morfit (guitar/vocals), Peter Landreth (saxophone), Eliza Goodyear (vocals), Jamie Goodyear (vocals, guitar, keyboards, vocoder, bongos), Scott Bell (drums) and Brian Hetherington (keyboards).
Kerry left an amazing blog Nexttriparoundthesun.blog that documents her struggle with cancer and is a brave memoir of her exploration of life in light of her impending mortality. Her post on October 25, 2017 “When Laughing Is the Only Way to Cope” describes her medical treatment in the days leading up to her performance at our benefit and the last minute decision of her medical team to allow her to come to the Sweetwater to sing that night. The blog contains a video clip of her singing on stage with the band at our benefit concert with our rose backdrop behind her. The band’s website also has video clips of other Birdseed concerts with Kerry singing.
Her blog has some quotes about how music was truly medicine for her. In her post on February 1, 2016, she wrote about their opening set for a show at the Great American Music Hall. She said “Nothing like adrenaline, joy, the band, and a fun crowd to ban cancer for a few hours. Your brain needs focus to register pain, so the distraction of lyrics and being utterly in the moment vanishes pain for awhile.” She wrote in her post on February 7, 2017 “Medicine Music” “nothing gets me through cancer more than music…good energy and all joy.” She wrote on April 3, 2017 in “Music Is Medicine” post “It is just the best medicine I know. You probably get sick of me repeating that, but I can’t tell how much I feel like my soul was set free in being able to sing with this band. It has unleashed creativity, it forces me into the moment, and I swear it tingles through every cell. That is the magic and the medicine.”
Thank you Kerry for understanding the power of live music to transform performers and audiences alike, as well as your generosity in sharing your music with Bread & Roses to bring hope and healing to those who are isolated. We will keep with us your eloquence in describing the power of music as medicine, and what it meant to you as a person and as a performer will continue to inspire us. Your spirited singing will be remembered, and you have left a very powerful trail to follow.
Photos by Benjamin Snell at Fall Benefit Concert at Sweetwater Music Hall October 24, 2017
1) Kerry Landreth
2) (l-r) Peter Landreth, Eliza Goodyear, Jamie Goodyear and Kerry Landreth
3) Jamie Goodyear and Kerry Landreth
4) Kerry Landreth and Lane Murchison