Famous Blind Musicians in the World

blind musicians

The world is full of talented people but there are people who have excelled their skills to become talented. Yes, here we are about to discuss some of these people. A lot of us have excellent skills in various things such as sports, education, recreational activities, etc. All these activities require a great amount of dedication and hard work. For instance, when you start learning how to play instruments, you need to go through immense challenges. Only after that, you excel in playing the instrument. Take a moment and imagine the blind musicians. How do you think they manage to play various instruments?

People who are virtually handicapped have managed to make a name in the world of music. There are some famous musicians who have created magic with their hands even though they are virtually handicapped. Most of these musicians are either pianist or guitarist. The names mentioned below are mostly self-taught musicians.

How can Blind Musicians play Instruments?

Each and every instrument we play needs notes to follow. There is a said pattern of learning how to play an instrument. It can be any instrument but you must know the pattern or method. In the case of blind musicians, the regular method is completely inactive. For this purpose, they adopted a new technique. The blind people learn by following the sound of the instrument. Further, they take special care with the placement of fingers to the stress applied on each note of a piano or the strings of a guitar.

There are researches conducted on handicapped people which shows that when one of your senses is inactive, the others become hyperactive. This, in turn, helps you judge your surroundings with the help of sound, smell and feel. This theory is also applied to visually impaired people. Music is one thing that engages most of your senses which include your vision, feelings, and sense of sound. As one sense fails to work the others become hyperactive.

Top 7 Blind Musicians of All Time

Here we have listed the names and a briefing about 7 blind people who have excelled in the skill of playing an instrument. Some of these people are pianists while others are a guitarist. They have not only excelled in the skill but have also proved their worth as a musician in front of the world. These people are the gems of the music world. You might find a couple of blind jazz artists over here as well.

If you ever get an opportunity to research these people then do browse the internet to witness some of their magical moments. Those who have witnessed these musicians performing live, they have accepted that it was something phenomenal. You just cannot understand whether the person is blind or not.

1. Blind Willie Johnson

You can see a lot of blues musicians who have Blind in their name. This was a trend back in those days. The trend gelled well with musicians back then and lots of musicians adopted it with their names. Even if a musician isn’t blind, he would use Blind along with his name. it was a time when blues and the term blind walked side by side. In the case of Willie Johnson, it is said that he was blind since childhood.

The story which proved it was of his childhood when his dad used to beat his stepmother. In the fit of rage, his stepmother once threw lye on his face which made him blind. Just like most other musicians of his time, he started with singing gospel songs on the streets. The way he used to play the guitar and sing was quite different from the pattern followed for gospel songs. It was more like a traditional blues pattern. This, in turn, made him one of the best slide guitarists of that time. Willie’s career was short but interesting. He produced 30 tracks in 3 years for the Columbia Records. Some of his memorable works are:

  • Let the Light from the Lighthouse
  • The Soul of a Man
  • Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
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2. Ray Charles

Ray Charles is a name that must be recalled when you are talking about blind musicians. He is among those people who weren’t only a musician but a singer and a songwriter. It is popularly known that the foundation of soulful music was laid by Ray Charles. A lot of people find inspiration in Ray Charles. Even for blind classical musicians, Ray Charles has always been the role model for their musical career. Ray Charles wasn’t born blind but when he was at the age of 5, he started losing his eyesight. When Charles was 7 years old, he completely became blind.

Ray Charles is one of the best black piano players and singers who developed the skills at an early age. It was when Ray was in school that his piano teacher taught him playing the instrument with the help of the Braille method. He developed the skill through a lot of hard work as he had to play the piano with one hand and follow the Braille lessons with his other hand. By the time he excelled in this skill, Ray Charles was well versed in jazz and blues. This is because he was more into these genres of music than any other.

Later on, Ray Charles was praised internationally for his southern blues. Apart from being a musician, he was a great businessman. This, in turn, led him to the initiation of the foundation for deaf children. The foundation offers a scholarship for deaf children. His down to earth behavior and the social services conducted by him made him a role model for people beyond the musical universe.

3. Blind Willie McTell

Even though Blind Willie McTell wasn’t very successful throughout his career but somehow he managed to earn a name. His fame lasted for a while and that didn’t allow him to explore much. Unfortunately, after his death, the legacy got recognized and now it a quite a matter of pride when we talk about Willie McTell. He was born in the year 1898 in Georgia. It is said that Willie had a very sweet and melodic voice. This was very much contradicting as his contemporaries had a baritone voice. McTell always focused on music as his choice of career and started by playing accordion and harmonica. Later on, he adapted the 12 string guitar as his instrument for playing music.

Willie McTell touched fame by playing pop, blues, jazz, and the gospel songs. This, in turn, laid the foundation of his legacy as one of the renowned blind musicians in the US. For instance, “Mama T’Ain’t Long Fo’ Day” is one of the best pieces of blues you’ll ever get to listen to. Apart from this, songs like “Southern Can Is Mine” and “Statesboro Blues” are some of his most popular works. In the song, Bob Dylan paid his tribute to Willie McTell when he sang, “nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.”

4. Art Tatum

When you get to talk about the world’s greatest musicians, you shouldn’t miss out on the virtuoso Art Tatum. He was the finest pianist in the world who could play the piano like no one else. Tatum had a great sense of improvisation and genuine feats of musical dexterity. This, in turn, made him a remarkable pianist who is now an inspiration for all the aspiring pianists around the world. Tatum was born in Toledo, Ohio. His mother was a pianist while his father was a guitarist.

He wasn’t blind by birth but due to cataract he partially lost his vision in one eye and completely in the other eye. He was very fond of music and could adapt any form of music by just listening to it. It is said that James P. Johnson and Fats Waller were his inspiration to take up music as a career. He had his own unique version of music which combined stride and classical. Art Tatum was way ahead of his time as he used the extended and inverted chord progression. Pianists like Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Thelonios Monk were highly inspired by Tatum.

5. Stevie Wonder

A true follower of Ray Charles was Stevie Wonder. He was highly inspired by the music Charles used to play. It is popularly known that Stevie was one of the rare musicians who were gifted with the talent. The talent of playing instruments was in him by birth. Stevie was a child star and later on became one of the youngest piano players with great skills. At the age of 11, he signed a deal for recording. Since then he has been crafting some of the best songs.

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As he was born premature, Wonder suffered from ROP or retinopathy prematurity. Under this condition, the eyes don’t grow fully. As a result of this, Stevie Wonder became blind at a very young age. Stevie Wonder, as a blind musician, is known to be playing various instruments as a child. Later on, he also played drums, harmonica along with piano for church choirs. He was named as one of the best pianist of his time when he signed the Motown Records.

6. Ronie Milsap

During the 70s to 80s, Ronie Milsap was the most influential musician and performer in America. He used to play with his eyes closed and was profoundly known for his versatility. Ronie was blind by birth but that never caused him trouble to gain success in life. He was raised by his grandparents as his mother abandoned him is a very tender age. When he was 7 years old, his musical talent started showing up.

Soon after that, he joined a school to learn music and excelled in the art of playing various instruments. He also mastered the skill of playing piano over there. Within a few years, Milsap was known as one of the best blind classical musicians. In the year 1963, his first singles, total Disaster gained lots of popularity which led him to sing a number of records in the future. When it comes to country music, he is one of the most celebrated musicians.

7. Moondog

An extraordinary pianist was Louis Hardin, also known as Moondog. In the field of music, he has left a mark with his exclusive and extraordinary work. Moondog was a skilled pianist, poet, and a composer. He had an elaborative career in the field of music. In the list of blind musicians, Louis Hardin is a gem. You will be amazed to know that he also invented a couple of musical instruments as well. Louis used to live on the streets and his music was influenced by street noises. He had a very simple yet unique lifestyle.

During his school years, Louis used to play drums for the school band. It was at the age of 16 when Louis lost his eyesight in an accident. Later on, he attended blind schools in Central America and took classes to learn the basics of music. As he trained his ears throughout the years, he learned how to play piano and composed music. Further, he used to learn music from the theory books formed in Braille.

Tips on Playing Piano for Blind Players

Being a blind person affects a lot in leading a normal life but here we have learned so much about these blind musicians that you can lead a normal life too. All you need is some courage and the dedication required. Here are some tips for blind players.

  • All the blind people willing to play piano and become pro in it should seek help from the theories of music available in Braille. It is one of the best options for visually impaired music students.
  • Anyone can get access to the Braille music and theories available over various online and offline stores.
  • Any blind music student can learn by listening to music records.
  • If you are visually impaired then you must develop your other senses to excel the skill of playing instruments. This, in turn, will help you become a pro musician.

With so much said and discussed, it isn’t tough to gain success in life. It really doesn’t matter if you are visually impaired. All you need is the courage to move ahead by keeping your weaknesses aside.

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