Cancer Survivorship in The Music City

John Prine - Benefit concert for Gilda's Club Nashville

NASHVILLE, TN - Country music and health care. These seemingly distinct topics frequently are associated with the people and places of Nashville, Tennessee. But when examined more closely, these two core facets of the Music City have merged to create a powerful sense of hope and support for cancer survivors and the search for a cure for cancer.


Unparalleled by any other city, Nashville is home to many of the most talented, generous, and caring musicians in the world. Through benefit concerts, collaborations, and other special contributions, the passion and commitment of these individuals have become an integral part of cancer survivorship in our community.


CanConnect has compiled a list of the local activities that bring together Nashville’s music industry, musicians, and cancer survivors:


Benefit Concerts and Tours:

Ranging from national tours to neighborhood-organized events, benefit concerts are a powerful way for local musicians to support cancer survivors and research.

Musicians who are Cancer Survivors:

Nashville is home to many musicians who are also cancer survivors. These musicians have used their music and celebrity to raise awareness and money for cancer research and support.

  • John Prine, a throat cancer survivor, performed a benefit concert for Gilda’s Club Nashville at the Belcourt Theater in May, 2008.
  • Ruth McGinnis, an ovarian cancer survivor, is a recording artist as well as an author, wellness professional, and speaker. She presented and performed at the 2008 Living in Full Bloom celebration for cancer survivorship.
  • Kevin Sharp, a bone and lung cancer survivor, is a recording artist, author, and motivational, spoke at the June 2008 Relay for Life in Camden, TN.
  • Beth Nielsen Chapman, a breast cancer survivor, singer-songwriter, and activist.
  • Charlie Daniels, a prostate cancer survivor.
  • Nanci Griffith, a breast cancer and thyroid cancer survivor.
  • Sheryl Crow, a breast cancer survivor
  • Sarah Cannon, aka Minnie Pearl, a breast cancer survivor and country music icon. She is the namesake of the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation and the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center. She lived to age 83 and made middle Tennessee her home (1912-1996).

Music Industry Leaders:

Nashville’s support for cancer survivors and cancer research occurs at all levels of the community, including several of the most respected leaders of the music industry.

  • Tony Martell, founder of the T.J. Martell Foundation, named after his son, has been raising money for leukemia, cancer, and AIDS for over 30 years. Mr. Martell is a leading music industry executive who has inspired other musicians and celebrities to support the efforts of the foundation. Nashville, along with Los Angeles and New York, is one of the three locations of the T.J. Martell Foundation. The Foundation established the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in 1993.
  • Frances Williams Preston, a leader in the country music industry, “the songwriters guardian angel,” and supporter of cancer research. She is the president of the T.J. Martell Foundation and the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center are named in her honor of her support.

Health Care Professionals and Music:

Many of Nashville’s health-care professionals who support cancer patients and survivors also are musicians and have used music to promote cancer awareness.

  • Erie Chapman, is the founder and CEO of Baptist Health Trust, which has provided grants to several local cancer programs. Mr. Chapman also is a composer and on the board of the Nashville Composers Association.
  • Cancer Queens is a new musical revue created by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s Office of Patient and Community Education, featuring cast members from cancer support and education programs in middle Tennessee. Cancer Queens entertains with an educational message about cancer prevention, and will debut in Fall of 2008.
  • Jason Stamm, Tobacco Control Coordinator for the Metro Public Health Department spends his days working to decrease smoking rates in Davidson County. At night, Jason can be found playing bluegrass music with his band, Off the Wagon. Check out their myspace page at
  • Linda Sack, a musician with 14 years of experience playing for cancer, heart and other patients at local hospitals and hospices.

Creativity and Songwriting:

Musicians use their creativity to write songs that offer hope and support to cancer patients, survivors, family members, and health care providers.

  • “The Cure” – The largest songwriting collaboration in history. Storme Warren and Monty Powell got over 60 country music stars to write lyrics at the red carpet of the 2006 Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, TN. Powell compiled the lyrics and put them to music in "The Cure" to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation.
  • Songs from the Heart Concert – A workshop with singer-songwriter Tricia Walker, in which participants write lyrics about their experiences with cancer. Tricia puts the lyrics to music and performs the songs in a live benefit concert.
  • Songs For The Cure is a 12-track compilation featuring Nashville musicians, with songs based on the stories of people who are fighting cancer. The sales of the album benefit the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
  • The Readings’ original song, One of Those Days, is inspired by their mothers battle with multiple myeloma. This song has been used as part several cancer support events and organizations..
  • James Otto released “Where Angels Hang Around” in Spring, 2008 about driving to St. Jude in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Give It Up - Recorded in Nashville in May 2008, written for a breast cancer survivor.
  • Livin' Proof - Written by Eddie Garcie and Thom Mozloom.

Meeting with Cancer Patients and Survivors:

Nashville musicians take the time to meet and sing with cancer patients and survivors.


Special Collaborations:

Even when not singing and performing, Nashville musicians find ways to join forces in special collaborations to raise money for cancer research and support.

  • 2008 Life Blooms Calendar – Several female country music stars have included their photos in a new calendar to benefit the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation.
  • City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge – June 2008 marked the 18th annual year of this event, in connection with the Country Music Association Awards. Country musicians and celebrities come together for a softball game benefiting the City of Hope Cancer Center in California.

These songwriters, performers, and producers offer tremendous support to the local community, as their music can be a source of healing and hope for anyone who has been touched by cancer. The musicians of “The Music City” inspire us all to use our own passion, interests, and skills to help bring our community together for a common cause.

by Jacob Weiss /

Please let us know
if there are other music-related cancer survivorship events or individuals in Nashville or Tennessee to add to this list!