That’s not a word anyone ever wants to hear, but unfortunately, we can’t avoid it. It affects every single one of us in some way or another because it knows no boundaries. No race, no gender, no age or religion, and no social background can escape it. No amount of money or fame can buy it off. It tests our strength, our abilities, and our faith. And no matter if you’re the one fighting it or taking care of someone who is, it ramps up our stress, depression, and it can be a struggle just to open your eyes some days.
But in the darkest of times, it can also bring about the most humbling of blessings. And it can unite loved ones and strangers in the fight for life. And it seems no one comes together for a good cause faster than the country music community. Just ask country singer John Berry and his wife, Robin.
26 years ago, John Berry signed his first record deal and was introduced to country music audiences with songs like “Kiss Me In The Car” and “What’s In It For Me”. His signature hit, “Your Love Amazes Me” skyrocketed him to the top of the charts and even earned him a Grammy nomination in 1994. More hits followed throughout the 90s with “Standing on the Edge of Goodbye”, “I Think About It All The Time”, and “She’s Taken A Shine.” His 1995 Christmas album, Oh Holy Night, has become a staple for holiday tunes. The passing of years has not stopped him from constantly touring, churning out music (his new EP, Thomas Road, came out Nov 30), and even hosting his own Songs and Stories TV show for Heartland, with some of his closest friends and most iconic artists.
A little over a year ago, Berry released “Beautifully Broken”, the title track to Big Film Factory’s movie, produced by industry vets Chuck Howard and Brad Allen (I Am Not Ashamed). The film centers around crisis, difficult decisions, and God’s constant love and guidance, something the devout believer has never been afraid to share with his fan base.
John and his wife Robin (who sings beautiful harmony right alongside her husband), had their faith tested and then thrown into the spotlight earlier this year when a sore and swollen throat turned out to be tonsil cancer. They calmly revealed the diagnosis to their fans via Facebook, calling it a “hiccup” as he had just come off the road from his 22nd annual Christmas Songs and Stories tour,visiting 21 cities in 2018.
A CT scan in early January revealed two tumors in his tonsils, which were then removed surgically. To combat the highly treatable and 90% curable cancer, John underwent seven weeks of therapy, including chemo and radiation. Never one to forget about his fans, The Berrys’ set up a PO Box and email where fans were allowed to send get well cards and thoughts. The email (JohnBerryMusic413@gmail.com) includes the numbers 413, because according to the Berry household, Philippians 4:13 is what gets them thru even the most challenging of days.
But make no mistake about Tuesday, April 23. That is not going to be a difficult day by long shot. Emotional perhaps, but not difficult. On the contrary, it is a day of celebration in Nashville, Tennessee as some of the family’s closest friends and biggest stars of the 80s and 90s are coming together and throwing a party at City Winery. Legends like Tracy Lawrence, The Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, and Trace Adkins will be playing their most sought after hits and if you are a true fan of country music, you are well versed in the 90s decade.
This is not only to help with medical expenses for the Berrys, but to contribute to an amazing organization in town, Music Health Alliance. MHA is a nonprofit group that offers free services, advocacy, education, and preventative care for those in the music industry who otherwise may have trouble receiving benefits. Generous individual and corporate donors have helped more than 9700 members of the music community in all genres of music receive care, including bill reductions, discounted medications, and lifesaving heart, lung, and kidney transplants across 38 states. The services aid anyone who has worked in the music industry for more than two years or who has been involved with at least four commercially released singles or videos. Immediate family members may also qualify.
And when it comes to family, country music is all about it. The artists participating in Tuesday night’s event have shared everything together from charts and stages to awards to marriages and raising children. And now they are sharing in the joyous health news that Berry has completed his five weeks of treatment! The Country Note wanted to know what it means to them to be able to give back to their friend and other fellow musicians in a strong and powerful way.
Chuck Jones is the songwriter behind Berry’s inspirational song, “We All Come Together”, which is the title and message behind the entire show. “I first got to know John when we wrote together, and he recorded several of my songs in the early 90s. I’ve always known him and Robin to be exceptional, real, and down to earth folks. I consider it a privilege to be able to contribute in any way I can. Plus, when it comes to Music Health Alliance, any organization that devotes time, energy, and funds to assisting musicians and those in the industry is a friend of mine.”
Lisa Stewart is also grateful for MHA because she feels “it’s not motivated by anything except that patient’s personal needs.” Excited about performing Tuesday night with partner Lee Roy Parnell, she had this to say: “My hope is that John will feel the love from this community and it will do great things to help him in his healing process. Know that you are loved.”
“What If I Said” singer Anita Cochran can vouch for how important it is to have friends in the business and help with medical bills. Cochran’s new song “Fight Like A Girl” stands as a powerful anthem as she is still recovering from her own recent battle with triple positive breast cancer and can relate to what it’s like to not be able to work during her treatment. “I was fortunate enough to have help from the Nashville music community as well so for me, I’m just paying it forward to help a fellow friend/artist in a time of need. God bless each and every one at Music Health Alliance for all they do for the music community.”
Heidi Newfield echoed those sentiments. “Music Health Alliance works together with those of us in the music business to get the best healthcare possible so, God forbid, any of us get bad news, we can detect it early and stand a greater chance of beating it. I swear they are angels over there!” And when talking about her friend John Berry, she had this to say: “He’s one of the most centered, kind, and talented people I know. John, his family, and close friends are so strongly rooted in their faith and supporting one another as a team, it’s encouraging just to see how they’ve handled this diagnosis with grace and strength. We have two choices when we wake up every day. Be positive or be negative even in the worst of circumstances. I choose the former. . . it’s never let me down.”
The power of positive thinking has never let “God Bless Texas” singer Tim Rushlow down either. “It is in my DNA to be aware and know that someone, somewhere, is in a worse place than me. I am humbled to be a part of things that are the BIG picture. You know, the musicians and entertainers are sadly forgotten a lot of times. We spend a lifetime bringing joy to those who need it in life and are sometimes left falling through the cracks we try to prevent. That is why MHA is important and matters.” And when it comes to his buddy John Berry: “I have always loved John, his family, music and legacy. I am here to help when needed because he is like me and every other artist who lives this life just like us. When we need a hand to deal with a situation, we deal with it as one. I am sure they would all do the same for me, should I need ever it.”
“Nobody Wins” hitmaker Radney Foster feels the same way. “John Berry is a deep-souled individual who cares about every musician he sees, myself included. He brings a heart as big as his voice to his music. That’s a rare thing. “
James Wesley has been familiar with Berry’s music for a while and knows how revered Berry’s voice and faith is to the country music family. He had these words of encouragement for the Berry family. “There has always been a scripture that stands out and has helped me in times of need and comfort that says…. ‘He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21’”
The Oak Ridge Boy’s Joe Bonsall also mentioned the importance of faith and trusting in God’s plan. “Well, we have known John for a long time and have so much respect for the man and his talent. Bad health can hit any of us at any time. God has sure been good to The Oak Ridge Boys and our health and blessings are never taken for granted. None of us are new kids on the block these days, so it is awesome to know that there is a support group like Music Health Alliance to provide whatever help might be needed when a musician has to face hard times, such as John is facing right now. John is a man of faith, as we are, and he knows that Jesus is the answer. We must have faith in Him at ALL times, especially at a time like this. Trust in Him, John and family. He is capable. Lean upon Him. It is our prayer that John will stand strong in his faith right now and, if it be God’s will, this challenge will pass, and John will be healed.”
Opry veteran Tim Atwood is thrilled to participate with his musical counterpart, Jeannie Seely. “Sooner or later life will turn on a dime for all of us. It is a testament to a man’s character how many people will be there to help him maneuver his new course. I’m honored to give back to a man who has given so much to so many.”
Recent Opry Inductee and “19 Somethin’” singer Mark Wills will also be making an appearance in the April 23rd festivities. “He’s a Georgia boy,” he told The Country Note. “I’ve known him since before my career got started. When one of us has a need, we step up and try to help out. I’m honored to have been asked to participate and I’m happy that John is doing well.”
Another 90s icon stepping up is songbird and on again, off again touring partner since 1995, Suzy Bogguss. With memorable hits like “Outbound Plane” and “Letting Go.”, Bogguss has seen first-hand the work done by Music Health Alliance. “MHA has helped several close friends through critical health issues. As musicians we automatically make up a community and even if we don’t know each individual personally, we feel compassion for each other through the shared love for our craft.” She also had a special message for her buddies:
“John and Robin Berry, you have always been a beautiful driving force. Your kids are just as fine as their folks. So sorry you guys are presented with this illness. If there is a family strong enough to beat it, it is surely yours. Lots of love from Doug, Ben and me.”
Mr. T-R-O-U-B-L-E himself, Travis Tritt, may have the perfect words to sum up this coming week’s celebration. “I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. Knowing that friends and family have your back is an important factor in fighting this disease. On this night, John’s friends and musical family will come together to show John and the world that we have his back and he is not fighting this alone.”
John Berry, you are certainly not fighting this alone! Check out the full list of acts below. And just announced are the emcees of the show! 90s country host extraordinaires Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase will be on hand as the fabulous duo Crook & Chase. WSM Radio on-air personalities Chris Kulick, Devon O’ Day, and Mike Terry will also be lending their talents as hosts for the SOLD OUT evening. You can also still donate to this heart warming cause by texting the word DONATE to 678-666-5269 and following a URL link in the response. An online auction also just went live on Thursday, April 18th and it can be viewed at accelevents.com/e/JBMHA.
Keep up with John Berry on socials at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Music is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play and you can download it on Amazon Music and iTunes. Video content can be found on YouTube.
Also, be sure and follow The Country Note on our socials (@thecountrynote) as we will have the latest off stage, on stage, and maybe even backstage . . . . who knows! John and Robin Berry are both beaming rays of light in the music world. Their talent as well as their outlook on life has touched not only fans, but colleagues and industry members and we are all honored to take part in this special night! See you at City Winery on April 23rd!
“We All Come Together for John Berry and Music Health Alliance” Benefit Performers:
Chris Kulick WSM
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Jeannie Seely w/ Tim Atwood
Lee Roy Parnell w/Lisa Stewart
The Oak Ridge Boys
T. Graham Brown