In order to become a famous musician today, you have to jump a lot of hoops. Even though technology is available that would enable one to compose and produce their own music easily, when it comes to marketing and convincing fans that your music is good, you need to make a substantial investment. There are many people who have taken up opportunities like singing competitions with the purpose of winning a coveted price only to become famous and make music their chosen career. Others have begun in humble beginnings but thanks to video popularity, they have finally attained their dream.
Have you ever thought how difficult it is to be a famous musician especially when you are visually impaired? It is not easy as you may think but thanks to the passion, dedication, and help from many mentors, several have attained their dream and become renowned around the world.
Here are top 10 blind singers of all time.
10. Ken Medema
For more than 40 years, Ken Medema has been performing in the United States, Europe, and Canada. Ken was born on December 7th, 1943 and was named Kenneth Peter Medema. The singer, composer and songwriter was born almost blind. According to experts, Ken was able to tell light from shadow and be able to see outlines of major objects. Thanks to his passion for music, he began playing the piano when he attained the age of 5 years. At 8 years old, he took lessons in classical music via Braille music, playing by ear and improvisation. At age 25 years, he attended Michigan State University located in Lansing where he majored in music therapy by studying piano and voice.
9. George Shearing
George Shearing is a well known musician who enjoys international reputation as an arranger, pianist and composer. George has been recognized in jazz clubs for inventive and orchestrated jazz. As a musician, he has written over 300 compositions which include the classic “Lullaby of Birdland”. This became the jazz standard. Shearing was born at Battersea area of London in 1919 congenitally blind. He was the youngest of nine children. His musical talent won him several university scholarships but was forced to refuse them in favor of a more financially productive pursuit…playing piano at a neighborhood pub.
8. Rod Clemmons
Rod Clemmons was born and raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. At the tender age of 3 years, he began playing the piano. He came from a musically inclined family but despite being born blind, this did not deter him from attaining his dream. His parents helped to nurture his talent where he was taught by a faculty member of the local university. He attended the Arkansas School for the blind in Little Rock where he continued his musical training and general education. He attended the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he excelled as a musician. Today, he is a renowned singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer.
7. Nobuyuki Tsujii
As a gifted young Japanese musician, he began playing the piano and his first composition to play was Jingle bells. This is after hearing his mum hum the song. At 7 years of age, he won a prize at the All Japan Music Competition for Blind Students. He performed at the Century Orchestra in Osaka at age 10 and by 12 years of age, he had given his first piano recital. He composed his first song titled Street Corner of Vienna.
6. William Samuel McTier
Widely renowned as Blind Willie Mctell, he was born on May 5th 1898. He is well known for being a Piedmont blues and ragtime singer and guitarist. Blind Willie Mctell played a fluid and syncopated finger style guitar style which was common with Piedmont blues. He is remembered for having used the twelve string guitar and was also an adept slide guitarist. This was quite unusual especially among ragtime bluesmen back then. He performed various musical styles which included blues, ragtime, religious music and hokum. He passed on August 19th 1959 aged 61 years.
5. Jeff Healey
Jeff Healey is remembered as a Canadian music icon who was born on March 25th 1966. At an early age, he suffered from retinoblastoma resulting in him being blind. He got his first guitar at the age of 3 years and at this time; he developed a unique style of playing. His style was composed of placing the guitar flat on his lap and playing the guitar like a lap steel. His hands were placed over the fret board providing him flexibility of fretting with his fingers. Over two decades, he had a successful music career where he played rock, blues and traditional jazz. He passed away in 2008.
4. Ronnie Milsap
Born in 1943, he is renowned as an American country musician and pianist. He is popularly remembered for having made the 1970s and 1980s memorable. As one of the country’s music first successful blind singer, his hit songs incorporated pop, R&B plus rock and roll elements. Some of his hits include “It was almost like a song”, “Smoky Mountain Rain” and “Stranger in my house.” He has won six Grammy awards and is credited for forty No.1 country hits.
3. Stevie Wonder
Born Stevland Hardway Judkins on May 13th, 1950, he is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist. As a child prodigy, he is credited for having become one of the most critically and commercially successful music performers of the 20th century. Overtime, he has recorded more than 30 US Top Ten hits and received 25 Grammy Awards. He has also sold over 100 million records worldwide.
2. Art Tatum
Art Tatum is remembered as one of the greatest improvisers in jazz history. He set the standard for technical dexterity thanks to his 1933 classic recording of “Tea for Two.” Born on October 13th, 1909 in Toledo, Ohio, he was nearly blind but his artistic vision was not. His disability became an ability to be a jazz piano icon and a musician who had an impact on several generations.
1. Ray Charles
Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23rd, 1930, Ray Charles is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. To many, he was referred to as “the Genius” but among his friends, he was “Brother Ray.” He is remembered for having pioneered soul music in the 1950s. This was after combining blues, rhythm, and blues plus gospel styles. His influence was Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, and Charles Brown. They became friends with Quincy Jones who helped him learn the ropes of arranging jazz music. The statue of Ray Charles is erected in Greenville, Florida. He passed on June 10th 2004 aged 73 years in Beverly Hills, California.