We complain about having to go to school everyday, having to work everyday, having to cook often, being tired and bored all the time, and about many other things that annoy us. But we all take for granted the things that we’ve been blessed with without asking for, sight being one of those things. On the other hand, the people who have known how it feels to be handicapped, to be impaired, have appreciated the blessings surrounding them more than most of us ever did. This article is about ten inspirational blind pianists, who despite being impaired with disabilities, were able to successfully prosper, develop their musical talents and prove that every person is capable of unraveling the potential that lies dormant within each individual, no matter the circumstances that life throws.
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10. Blind Willie Johnson
Image Credits: Wikipedia
Known as the blind singer who called himself blind, Willie Johnson was an American guitarist who also excelled in playing piano. Not much is known about him, but one of the things agreed upon is that he was not born blind. There is no certain theory regarding how he lost his sight at an early age, but it is said that he got this disability after his step-mother had thrown a solution of lye water at his face, causing his blindness at the age of seven. However, this did not deter Johnson from pursuing the path that he chose, as he had produced about 30 unique tracks after meeting a fellow blind musician, who was said to have inspired Johnson.
9. Art Tatum
Image Credits: BBC
Art Tatum is one the greatest, most famous blind pianists in history as the jazz music he delivered to the world has had a huge impact on countless individuals. There is also not much known about this artist, but it is reported that he had cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens) when he was born, and thus grew up to be blind in one eye, with the other eye having a highly limited scope of vision. He used to listen to his mother play the piano at the Grace Presbyterian Church and had followed her example in his life, growing up to be an ambitious, inspirational character.
8. Marcus Roberts
Image Credits: Jazztimes
This famous blind jazz pianist, born in 1963, had gotten impaired with blindness at the age of five, due to cataracts and glaucoma (eye diseases causing damage to the optic nerve and resulting in vision loss). However, the talent of piano ran in the blood of the family, as he was taught how to play the piano since the age of 12 by his blind mother, who was self-taught. In an interview, when questioned about his mother, he responded she ”taught me to not only play music but to feel it with my whole body.”
7. Ken Medema
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Having never seen one note, Kenneth Peter Medema started learning how to play the piano at the age of five, then joined classes at the age of eight, where he used Braille to read the music notes and was taught to play by ear. He had performed in the United States for more than 40 years and his records have reached out to a large audience, making him one of the most famous blind pianists in history.
6. Joaquin Rodrigo
Image Credits: Classic FM
The blind Spanish, virtuoso blind pianist had been successful in delivering Spanish music to the 20th century and his music was considered as one of the best music in that century. To pay him a tribute, a monument was built for him in Rosario, Argentina and he had won in 1983, the Premio Nacional de Musica, which is Spain’s most honorable award for composition. Having started his journey of learning the piano along with the violin at the age of eight at his school in Italy, he established, at the age of twenty-three, his first piano composition. He died at 97 years old in 1999, but his music is still cherished to this day.
5. Ronnie Milsap
Image Credits: Rolling Stone
Due to having a congenital disorder (which is an inevitable disorder present before birth), Milsap was born with blindness, and was under the care of his grandparents after his mother had abandoned him when he was an infant. When he stood out and demonstrated extraordinary musical skills in his school, his teachers motivated him by telling him he was a natural born musician. 73 years old as of today (November 2016), Milsap’s music continues to spread positive vibes and he is regarded as one of the most cheerful and inspiring blind pianists of all time.
4. Stevie Wonder
Image Credits: Tes
Titled as ”A Child Prodigy,” Wonder is one of the best blind pianists in history and his music serves to be one of the most motivational music of the late 20th century. However, Stevie Wonder was not born blind; rather, it is reported that he had developed Retinopathy of prematurity (a disease of the eye), due to him being born six weeks premature and also due to an atmosphere filled with oxygen in the incubator. Born in 1950, he established his first record at the age of 11, setting an example to not only the impaired children, but to all the children and the people around the world.
3. George Shearing
Image Credits: Piano-Play
Being one of the most talented, and famous blind pianists in history, the British Sir George Shearing had won a scholarship to attend university after he demonstrated his amazing skills but had turned it down in order to start his piano career, where he played the piano at a local hub for five pounds per week. Climbing the ladder of success, he further developed his talents and after making his way to the United States, he was granted to opportunity to play before three presidents in the White House; and he was knighted by the Queen of England in 2007. He died at the age of 91 due to heart failure but will always be remembered as one of the best blind pianists history has known.
2. Nobuyuki Tsujii
Image Credits: Rafu
The gifted Japanese pianist, Nobuyuk Tsujii started playing the tune Do Re Mi at the age of two, while listening to his mother hum it; and began studying how to play the piano at the age of four. At seven years old, he ranked first place in the Japanese competition, ”All Japan Music of Blind Students by the Tokyo Helen Keller Association,” and at only ten years old, he had his first public performance with the Century Orchestra in Osaka. Tsujii continued to develop his passion as he later encountered many job opportunities and was welcomed and greeted on many stages around the world, winning countless awards such as the Critics’ Award, the Beverley Taylor Smith Award, the Japan Film Critics Award and many more. Besides the fact that he was skilful in playing the piano at a very young age, Tsujii was also a composer, and he performed his composition titled ”Street Corner of Vienna,” while being only twelve at the time. Being 28 years old as of today, November 2016, Nobuyuki Tsujii is marked for being an inspirational icon and has helped in uplifting the spirits of a great many individuals around the world, therefore being one of the most famous blind pianists in history.
1. Ray Charles
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There are several reasons accounting to why this deceased pianist has been topped as number 1 in the list and is agreed upon as the best and the most famous blind pianist of all time. One of the reasons why Ray Charles is such an inspirational blind pianists to many is because of the rough childhood that he had. Charles’ mother, Aretha Williams, was a teenage orphan who worked as a sharecropper at the time she gave birth to him. After his father had abandoned him and left the city (Greenville, Florida) while taking another wife with him, Aretha and her son often visited Mr. Wylie Pitman’s Red Wing Cafe, where Charles would watch Pitman play the piano (at that time, Charles could see). Taking note of the interest he demonstrated, Pitman taught Charles how to play the piano and he would also sometimes aid Aretha in taking care of Charles’ younger brother, George. To the family’s sorrow however, George drowned at the age of four in Aretha’s laundry tub while Charles started becoming visually impaired at the age of five, due to glaucoma, and had become completely blind by the age of seven. Despite the traumatic experience that Charles had been through, he did not give up on his dreams and he started developing his talent at his school, using Braille to read musical notes. That’s when the second greatest tragedy of his life approached him as his mother passed away when he was 14-15 years old. He was later expelled from school for his misbehavior with his teacher. Nonetheless, Charles got to play the piano at the Riz Theatre in LaVilla, where he was rewarded 4 dollars per night. He further pursued his dreams and grew up to be a popular, admired musician and had established a foundation for deaf children, awarding them scholarships. Apart from the fact that he was a creative and successful businessman, referred to as ”The Genius,” Charles’ work has had an unfathomable impact on the world, which is never going to fade away.
Those were the top 10 motivational figures who devoted their life to the piano and delivered a heart-felt, meaningful message to the world, serving to be the physical embodiment of hope, inspiration, and determination. If you would like to check out more music-related articles on our website, click here to choose the list you’re interested in reading, and make sure you stay tuned for more!