10 Famous Blind Piano Players And Musicians
It is really surprising how many famous blind pianists and musicians we have, as there are many disadvantages to the players.
Famous blind piano players include Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and José Feliciano. Though blind pianists have historically been a rare phenomenon, blind musicians, in general, are more common than most people realize.
Blind pianists who play the accordion do exist as well; these include the renowned French musician Laurent Cugny and Colombian singer Juan Carlos Calderon.
There has also been one documented case of an individual with no arms learning to play the accordion using only his feet: Scotsman Alan Glen became famous for this unusual talent in 1972.
While the act of playing the accordion without actually looking at it is certainly an impressive feat, playing a keyboard (particularly one as difficult to master as the modern-day grand) with your eyes closed is nothing short of superhuman.
In fact, there are less than twenty people on Earth who can say that they truly mastered such a talent. One early proponent of this style was Liberace, who played concerts for many years while wearing what appeared to be thick white sunglasses. Having struggled with glaucoma since childhood, Mr Liberace opted to wear blindfolds during his performances in order to hide his condition from the public.
Though the number of musicians who actually played blind is relatively small – and though it seems doubtful that they did so by choice – there are a few interesting facts regarding these individuals:
– The biggest selling single record by a “blind” artist was 1941’s Dinah, which sold seven million copies on its release; singer/pianist Les Paul performed all instruments on this track (including the bass line) – and recorded it without seeing any part of it. He had lost most of the vision in his right eye after a car crash.
– Jazz pianist Art Tatum is probably the most famous blind musician of all time, having developed his signature style, which made extensive use of advanced tapered technique (especially arpeggios and broken chords), without the benefit of sight. He went blind at age three due to an infection (Tuberculosis); though he was able to develop exceptional hearing – thus allowing him to play without looking at the keys – it left him with numerous ailments which plagued him during his adult life: blindness was only one of them. In later years, he suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction; these problems may have exacerbated the condition.
– Blind pianist/composer Josef Labor was the master of what is now referred to as “traditional” classical music; his compositions were written well before any musician had ever heard of Chopin, Beethoven or Bach. However, he never learned how to read and write standard musical notation (due to a childhood accident involving a book’s binding); instead, all of Labor’s scores have been preserved in Braille.
– Art Tatum may be the most famous blind pianist – but there has actually been one blind person who made international headlines by playing the accordion: blind French musician Laurent Cugny. Not only did he play the accordion blind, but he also performed while standing blind, and – at one point — even blindfolded!