Take a look at the below list of Top 10 Most Popular Blind Musicians of All Time till 2017. When the musical world was being created, the successful musicians weren’t categorised; they just occurred and sometimes, they, as prominent as they became, were blind. However, no sight meant exception hearing and tones that a hearing person couldn’t hear were prolific for the blind musician.
Regardless of colour, creed, religion or prowess, each blind musician in his own way has proven nothing is impossible. Pianists and piano tuners, violinists, keyboard players, saxophone and harp; it has little to do with the instrument but it has much to do with an attitude that quietly states ‘s ‘I will not be denied.’
While it would present difficulties to place these fine musicians in an order to God Given talent, the numbers here only represent the Top 10 Most Popular Blind Musicians of all time, given we have not included those who globally continue to delight the world with their talent. But it is with deep respect that as they appear, they do so in no particular order or prevalence.
List of Top 10 Most Popular Blind Musicians of All Time till 2017
10. George Shearing
When a pianist by the name of George Shearing who at a tender age sat before a piano and played by ear. it was clear he had a gift that no man could take away. Shearing was a Londoner who when offered a scholarship to study music, was forced to refuse so that he could support himself. He played in local pubs and clubs and was paid a sum of five pounds per week until in 1947 he moved to the United States. Shearing became one of the greatest internationally known jazz pianists recognised in history as one of the celebrated musicians who was privileged to play for three American presidents at the White House. Known for his seminal Lullaby in Birdland he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
9. Ray Charles
Ray Charles lost his eyesight at the age of 5. Georgian born in 1930 Charles maintained charisma throughout the years and brought Blues to the musical table, played in his own unique style. Inspired by blues piano players, he joined local groups before settling in Seattle. “Mess Around,” “ I Got A Woman,” and “Drown in My Own Tears” became the hits he was known for until he signed with Paramount. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “You Don’t Know Me” became Ray Charles’ signature songs.
8. Ronnie Milsap
Ronnie Milsap was born blind due to a congenital disorder. By sixteen he was singing and went on to produce various hits. Born in Robbinsville, North Carolina, Milsap listened to country, gospel, and blues that led him to study classical music before he taught himself to play a variety of instruments. He diversified and in 1963 his career took off when he released his first single, Total Disaster which enjoyed some but not a huge amount of success. It wasn’t until the late seventies into the eighties that Milsap became an influential country singers. He left us with hits like It Was Almost Like A Song and Smoky Mountain Rain and has spent 2016 celebrating 50 years of music.
7. Blind Willie McTell
Willie Samuel McTell, a Georgian was a legendary guitarist and also one of the finest blues singers ever to inhabit the earth. With a dozen pseudonyms; the reason, he once said, “Is all the better to juggle exclusive relationships with many different record labels at once.” Some of the names he chose to call himself were Blind Willie, Blind Sammie, Hot Shot Willie, and Georgia Bill but it seemed Blind Willie stuck among his friends. Born into a family of musicians he also related to Georgia Tom Dorsey, who later became the Rev. Thomas Dorsey. McTell recorded two sessions for Victor records and produced some fine examples of storytelling in music, coupled with extraordinary guitar work. Perhaps being able to read and write music in braille, gave him an advantage but he learned to also to improvise on guitar which gave him a name as one of the very best blind musicians ever.
6. Blind Willie Johnson
A tragic beginning was Blind Willie Johnson’s life when his mother died when he was a baby and his father remarried. It was during an argument when Willie was seven, and instead of his father wearing a slew of lye water, little Willie received the entire vessel of burning lye in his eyes. When he was older he earned money playing guitar picking single-note melodies with a pocket knife and using his slide, he strummed with his thumb. Passionate about the Bible, Johnson wasn’t interested in blues and began singing gospel. He later became a Baptist preacher and married a girl he met in Dallas. His wife Angeline added 19th-century hymns to Johnson’s repertoire, and the two performed around the Dallas and Waco areas. He is one of the Top 10 Most Popular Blind Musicians of All Time till 2017.
5. Jose Feliciano
Jose Feliciano, a Puerto Rican guitarist was a virtuoso who in his early teens, discovered the acoustic guitar and taught himself to play by listening to records. When he was 16, he began playing folk, flamenco, and pop guitar on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit. Throughout his 50 year career he has tried a variation using just about everything and despite his relatively low profile in the U.S., Feliciano still enjoys the royalties from consistent international sales of his music. In 1991, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. You might remember his hit in 1970 “Feliz Navidad,” and continues to record in both Spanish and English and has the rare distinction of being successful in both.
4. Art Tatum
When we speak of virtuoso’s we can’t recall any others who could beat Art Tatum as one of the worlds greatest. Tatum is inherently one of the finest pianists who ever lived. Perhaps because he wasn’t frightened of improvisation, his musical dexterity made Tatum a breathtaking and inspirational pianist. Born in Toledo, Ohio he eventually succumbed to cataracts that destroyed his sight in one eye and he had limited vision in the other. Playing naturally by ear he drew inspiration from Fats Waller and counterparts and began to build his own unique sound. Undoubtedly one of the greatest compliments Tatum was ever paid came from Fats Waller, who was so impressed with Tatum’s performance, approached as Tatum stepped away from the piano as Fat’s said, “I only play the piano, but tonight God is in the house.”
3. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is the leading blind musician that has inspired music of today. Wonder was eleven when he sang ‘Fingertip’ and signed a contract with Motown. Having released numerous albums, he has been invited to duet with some of the highest paid singers in the world. A writer who inspired a public holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, he’s been a musical genius sine he was old enough to play a harp. During his 20’s he had already a dozen classics on the airwaves and during the next few years he would release a trilogy of albums. Born Stevland Hardaway Morris in 1950, Little Stevie Wonder perfected the use of the synthesizer, a sound which has dominated pop music ever since.
Louis Thomas Hardin, aka “Moondog began his life as a sighted child and played drums on a cardboard box. During a farming accident when he was sixteen, he lost his sight and as a sideline taught himself to play music by ear. He became a New York street musician in the 1940’s and called himself Moondog in honor of a dog he knew that used to howl at the moon. He later settled in Germany but his eccentricity had him fairly left alone and he invented a triangular-shaped harp known as the “Oo” and the Trimba, a triangular percussion instrument. He didn’t make a huge impression during his life on the music charts, but it’s the likes of Philip Glass and Steve Reich who are fans and Janis Joplin who sang his song “All is Loneliness”.
1. Nobuyuki Tsujii
Nobuyuki Tsujii is a gifted young Japanese musician who before he was 25, at four years old played “Jingle Bells on the piano after hearing his mother hum it. At seven he won first prize at the All Japan Music Competition for Blind Students. When he was ten he debuted with the Century Orchestra Osaka and at twelve he gave his first piano recital while also composing his first song, called “Street Corner of Vienna.” Tsujii has performed all over the world and writes theme music pieces the Japanese film industry. He has recorded pieces over the years and has become a prominent favourite in the classical music world. Still, in his twenties, the world hasn’t seen the last of this talented and gifted musician.
These are the Top 10 Most Popular Blind Musicians of All Time. Whether one is blind or physically challenged in another aspect, it still remains that behind the attitude on the outside is the determination and temerity of a musician who will succeed no matter what.