When you think of a blind piano player, what word comes to your mind? The word “talented” pops up in most minds. This is because only a few things in this world require more talent than playing music without sight! Blind piano players have done amazing things for musicians all over the world.
They’ve gone on tour with famous rock bands, played with symphonies, and given performances in front of thousands. But how exactly do they do it?
This article will look at some talented individuals and see how a famous blind pianist makes way through life without sight.
1. Ray Charles (1930-2004)
Ray Charles was a famous blind black pianist whose life was filled with musical achievements. He was born in 1930, and the beginnings of his career were in 1950. Ray Charles’ legacy lives today with a new generation appreciating him as one of the most influential singers.
He started playing guitar when he was just six years old and later picked up the harmonica. And it was not long before his natural talent for music became evident to others around him!
Ray Charles made a name for himself in jazz clubs all over America by the time he was in his twenties. In addition, he played with the likes of B.B King and Bobby Blue Bland for years before dying in 2004.
2. Stevie Wonder (1950-present)
Stevie Wonder is a brilliant pianist who is highly skilled with the instrument. He is one of the great blind artists who Ray Charles helped inspire and a renowned blind black pianist. Stevie Wonder is one of the famous blind pianists who has achieved even more significant notoriety than Ray Charles.
Stevie was born in 1950, and his career began when he signed with Motown Records at the age of 11, releasing his first hit single that same year. With every album release, it seemed as if Stevie would break new ground for himself.
Stevie has played with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones for over three decades. Stevie Wonder is also referred to as a gifted child, and although the word is overused, he is one of the few people born with the ability to play the piano.
3. Art Tatum (1909-1956)
Many people believe this famous blind jazz pianist to be one of the brilliant pianists of all time. This is because he has had a significant effect on the world of jazz and music in general, despite being blind. Art Tatum was born in 1909. He lost his sight as an infant and continued to play piano from memory.
He had perfect pitch and could read music with ease. As a result, Art Tatum is considered one of the best jazz pianists ever. He had a prolific career lasting until 1956. During that time, he recorded over 1000 solo performances and duets.
It is not much known about this famous blind pianist. Only one full-length biography was ever published about him, and during his years of stardom, Art Tatum tried to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible. Nonetheless, his music had a significant impact, notably on the jazz genre.
4. Ronnie Milsap (1943-present)
Let’s see how this blind man plays piano. Do you know that most famous blind pianists are drawn to the blues and jazz genres for various reasons? On the other hand, Ronnie Milsap is an exception, having become a country music superstar.
He is a famous blind pianist; Ronnie Milsap lost his sight due to diabetes at the age of 12 and never let it stop him. He was a quintessential country star in the 1980s. Ronnie Milsap is considered one of the most influential artists ever in that genre, releasing over 25 albums during his career with 18 charted singles, including three number ones! He has also won four Grammy Awards.
Ronnie Milsap had taught himself to play many instruments by recording his debut song, “Total Disaster.” Even though his popularity declined towards his career, he remains a famous blind piano player.
5. NobuyukTsujii (1988-present)
NobuyukTsujii is a master and a famous blind pianist with an international reputation. Born blind in Japan in 1988, he began to play the piano at the age of three and started studying with a Japanese pianist when he was seven. He showed early talent and began taking lessons at the age of six!
Tsujii is considered one of the best classical piano players of his generation and has been invited to play worldwide, including performances at Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, and Berlin’s Konzert-Gala Theatre.
He became a famous pianist in Japan in the early 2000s and performed at many well-known places where he was awarded the Fukuoka Prize from Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. In 2005 he was awarded a scholarship to attend Julliard School in New York City, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
6. Moondog (1916-1999)
Yes, this blind man plays the piano! Moondog is an American composer, primarily a jazz saxophonist. His real name is Louis Thomas Hardin. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri; on August 20, 1919, he became blind at the age of one, after being hit by a car.
There was no treatment for his blindness, so Moondog studied piano and cello with hopes of becoming a classical pianist or violinist. However, he had excellent piano skills that he used to teach himself how to play jazz.
Moondog is best known for his compositions “Bird’s Lament” and “Moose the Mooch.” Moondog played his music on the streets of New York City for many years until he was given a record contract in 1957. He is considered to be one of the famous blind pianists.
7. Jose Feliciano (1945-present)
Jose Feliciano was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, on February 25, 1946, and was a famous blind pianist. He was blinded in one eye at the age of six due to a baseball accident. At the same time, his mother died, and he became an orphan because his father had abandoned him when he was just three months old!
Feliciano never forgot how it felt lonely after losing sight of one eye and his mother. He became a singer and guitarist in the ’60s, which he said: “would make me happy.” His first big break was when he played at a fund-raising event for President John Kennedy.
After that, his piano skills developed, and he played as a guest on an album by jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. Feliciano is credited with popularizing Latin-Jazz, which blends the sounds of Afro-Cuban rhythms such as congas, bongos, and timbales, together with American Jazz techniques like improvisation.
He was crowned as the Latin Jazz Ambassador in 2011 by the U.S. Department of State. He is still performing to this day, along with his son Fito who also plays piano.
8. George Shearing (1919-2011)
George Shearing was born on September 15, 1919, in Leytonstone, Essex. He began playing piano when he was three and studied classical music but enjoyed jazz more. He became blind at the age of four due to an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.
He was a famous blind jazz pianist and the first person to record all of Thelonious Monk’s compositions. In 1949 George Shearing formed his band, which he led until 1963 when he retired from touring and performing and recording albums. He began his career as a pianist at 17 and took the name “George Shearing” from George Washington.
Shearing was one of the first British jazz musicians to achieve international fame in America, and he became an influential figure there until returning home in 1949.
Shearing is well-known for his witty sense of humour, often making humorous statements about himself: “I’m a ladies’ man who likes playing with other men’s wives.” He died on November 29, 2011, at 91 years old in London from natural causes.
9. Willie Johnson (1897-1945)
Willie Johnson was born in Mississippi in 1907 and was one of the blind black pianists. He was blind and one of four children, the other three being sighted. “I started playing piano when I could not see,” Johnson said during a 1972 interview on WBGO Radio New York with Mary Lou Williams.
At the age of twelve, he took to the organ for several years before turning to keyboard instruments like the accordion or the organ. He lost his eyesight entirely sometime around the age of 17 due to glaucoma, and he began playing in earnest after being given a piano by someone who had read about him. Johnson was a blind pianist with few equals.
Blindness did not stop Johnson from developing an extraordinary technique on keyboard instruments that included classical piano works, boogie-woogie, blues, and gospel. Johnson was one of those rare and famous blind pianists who can make music with fingers that touch something profound in our souls. He could perform complicated classical compositions with the same ease as playing lively ragtime tunes.
10. Kuha’o (1996-present)
Kuha’o is a well-known blind pianist; he is about to release an album or perform in a large venue. Also, he has a lot of potentials. Kuha’o was born in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1912 and was blinded due to complications from measles.
Kuha’o attended Kamehameha School for Boys, which had a program that allowed blind students to learn Braille to read and write with their fingers. Increasingly fascinated by music as he got older, Kuha’o began playing piano at home when his parents were away. He began playing the organ early and became a professional and a famous blind pianist by his teenage years.
Kuha’o was blind from birth and autistic and had to use braille music notation for the formal study of the classical piano repertoire. Kuha’o’s performances included classical and spirituals, gospel songs popular on the mainland, and Hawaiian folk songs.
The concept of a blind pianist may seem preposterous, but a list of well-known blind pianists demonstrates that piano playing does not require you to keep your eyes on the keys.
It instead asks you to learn and apply strategies – a technique for playing by ear, memorizing notes, and playing with the heart.
Nothing will stop you from becoming a professional pianist like one of these favourite blind piano players or other well-known pianists once you understand these strategies.