The world is at no shortage of deeply creative, talented musicians who also happen to be blind. Here are ten musicians who have not allowed their visual disability to get in the way of their musical gift.
1. Stevie Wonder (1950-present)
Stevie Wonder, a native of Michigan, was born six weeks prematurely and became blind as a result of retinopathy of prematurity, a condition that causes the retinas to detach. Wonder’s musical gifts were evident, beginning as a young child. At age eleven, he signed on to his first label and became known as “Little Stevie Wonder.” Today, he is considered one of the most successful singers and songwriters of the twentieth century.
2. Ray Charles (1930-2004)
Ray Charles, an iconic American composer and musician, started losing his sight at age four, as the result of juvenile glaucoma. By age seven, he was completely blind. Nicknamed “Brother Ray,” and “The Genius,” Charles was influential to the rise of soul music, a genre that arose from the merging of blues and gospel music. Charles has been featured on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
3. Rod Clemmons (1945-)
A native of Arkansas, Rod Clemmons was born blind. Despite this setback, he was a musically gifted child who began playing piano at the ripe old age of three. He went on to attend Indiana University Jacob School of Music on a full scholarship.
Today, he is a New York CIty based R & B singer, songwriter, and producer. He has released an album titled What’s Up? It’s Me.
4. Jeff Healy (1966-2008)
Hailing from Canada, Jeff Healy became blind as a young child as a result of retinoblastoma. At the age of three, he began playing the guitar by placing it flat on his lap, a unique style of playing which continued into his professional musical career as a jazz singer and guitarist.
He was even featured in Patrick Swayze’s Road House movie.
5. Nobuyuki Tsujii (1998-present)
Nobuyki Tsujii is a Japanese pianist with exceptional talent. Born blind, he began playing by ear on a toy piano at age two and began piano lessons at age four. Today, he is a renowned pianist and has won numerous awards; he frequently performs with orchestras and conductors, a major accolade for someone unable to see.
6. Diane Schuur (1954-present)
Diana Schuur is an American musician, best known as a jazz singer and pianist. She was born blind, but began singing at the age of three. She taught herself to play the piano by ear after becoming frustrated by braille sheet music, and she performed publicly for the first time at age ten. Schuur is known for an eclectic musical style, and has released albums of both jazz and country music.
7. Ronnie Milsap (1943-present)
Ronnie Milsap is a pianist and singer, well known for his ability to appeal to both country music and pop fans. A native of North Carolina, Milsap was born almost completely blind due to a congenital disorder. During a very challenging childhood, Milsap developed a love for music. Milsap’s rise to fame occurred in the 1970’s, when he moved to Nashville to pursue a musical career. His most famous songs include “Stranger in My House,” and “There’s No Getting Over Me.”
8. Andrea Bocelli (1958-present)
Andrea Bocelli is an Italian opera singer and songwriter. Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma, which caused a significant loss of vision. He became completely blind at age twelve, following a sporting accident. Bocelli was a musically gifted child, playing flute, saxophone, guitar, and drums. He went on to become an award-winning opera vocalist; his voice has often been described as the most beautiful in the world.
9. Jose Feliciano (1945-present)
Jose Feliciano is a Puerto Rican singer and composer, best known for his Christmas hit, “Feliz Navidad.” Feliciano was born blind; his musical talents became apparent around the age of seven, when he taught himself to play the accordion. He also began singing. As a young adult, he began his musical career by performing in bars and clubs in major U.S. cities and in Canada.
10. Terri Gibbs (1954-present)
A native of Miami, Terri Gibbs is a country music artist known for her debut single “Somebody’s Knockin.’” She became blind as newborn baby, due to an incubator accident. Despite her loss of sight, she began playing the piano at age three and went on to sing in a church choir. Gibbs’ hit single launched her career as a country music sensation, although her musical focus later shifted to contemporary Christian. She has released thirteen albums during her musical career.