Many blind musicians and singers have made our world brighter through their music and songs.
Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Andrea Bocelli have received unprecedented acclaim as musicians. They have achieved top honors and fame in the world of music, far beyond whatever most people could ever dream. Below, we’ve outlined the bios of these three amazing musicians who achieved so much.
1. Stevie Wonder: Musician & Singer
Top on this list, Stevie Wonder’s musical career is nothing short of stupendous.
Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins/Morris on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. He has used his musical skills to influence the work of musicians in a variety of musical genres, including R&B, soul, gospel, jazz, and funk.
Cause of Vision Loss
Wonder, who was born premature, developed a condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). This eye disease happens in infants who are either less than 3 pounds at birth or are born early.
ROP causes abnormal blood vessels to form in the retina, or the light-sensitive tissue toward the back of the eye. If the condition is not treated, or it reaches the point where the retina becomes completely detached, it may lead to blindness
In Wonder’s case though, he was not born blind. When he was incubated, too much oxygen was pumped inside the device. This affected the blood vessels in the back of his eyes and led to his vision loss.
Wonder plays the drums, piano, harmonica, and bass instruments. He has also used synthesizers and other electronic musical instruments in his music.
Wonder’s hit songs include “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” “Superstition,” and “Sir Duke.” These are among the 10 number-one hit songs he produced on the pop charts in the U.S. and his 20 R&B number-one hits.
Stevie Wonder Trivia: What You Might Not Know
- The first song the hit songwriter and singer learned to play was “Three Blind Mice.”
- Wonder was involved in a car accident in 1973 and temporarily lost his sense of taste and smell.
- An instrumental album he produced, Rednow Eivets, is Stevie Wonder spelled backward.
Stevie Wonder has truly lived up to his name, as shown by the following achievements:
- He was a musical child prodigy, signing with Motown at 11 years old, where he was given the professional moniker, Little Stevie Wonder.
- Wonder recorded the single, “Fingertips” in 1963 when he was only 13 years old. It was listed as number one on Billboard’s top 100. This made him the youngest musical artist to reach number one on the chart.
- He is a Grammy Award winner, winning Album of the Year in 1973, 1974, and 1976. In total, he’s won 25 Grammy Awards, the most of any single artist.
- Besides writing his own songs, Wonder has written songs for other artists, including Marvin Gaye, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, and The Temptations.
- During his career, Wonder has sold more than 100 million workers, which includes 19.5 million albums.
- He is one of the top 60 best-selling musical artists when it comes to combined sales of albums and singles.
It’s no surprise that Stevie Wonder has been hailed as one of the leading musical artists of the 20th century.
2. Ray Charles: A Musical Legend
Ray Charles was an iconic entertainer, best known for his memorable songs during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. He began his career in 1947.
Ray Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson, Sr. on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. He died on June 10, 2004, in Beverly Hills, California. He was a singer, pianist, and songwriter.
He is known in the music industry as “The Genius,” and friends referred to him as “Brother Ray.”
Cause of Vision Loss
Charles began losing his sight when he was 4 years old because of juvenile glaucoma, also known as juvenile open angle glaucoma (JOAG). The musician and singer had already learned to play the piano by the time he completely lost his sight when he was 7 years old.
Charles sang and played the piano.
Charles concentrated on the musical genres R&B and soul as well as the blues. Top hits by Ray Charles include “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “I Got a Woman,” and “What Would I Do Without You.”
Ray Charles Trivia
Ray Charles was a one-of-a-kind performer. Here are some facts on his career and life:
- When he worked in the early days as a musician, Charles lived in poverty, going without food for days. Those times were difficult times for anyone who worked as a musician to find work.
- The singer dropped his surname, so people would not confuse him with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.
- Charles was 19 years old in 1949 when he released his first single, called “Confession Blues.”
- His compositions of R&B combined with jazz made him famous as a soul performer.
- A deal in 1959 with ABC Records gave Charles control over his music with the creation of his own Tangerine record label.
Ray Charles was honored for his musical contributions, achieving a top standing in several areas.
- Charles won 13 Grammy Awards for his musical talents.
- He was a recipient of a lifetime achievement award in 1987.
- Charles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
- He was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.
- In 1993, the soul musician received the National Medal of Arts.
The musical legend was well recognized for his creative mix of gospel with R&B to create soulful songs like the 1954 classic, “I Got a Woman,” which gave him his own musical voice.
3. Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli was continually focused on getting a solid musical education and working on his music career despite his vision loss.
Hailed as having one of the most magnificent singing voices in the world of classical music, the Italian opera singer and beloved tenor Andrea Bocelli was born on September 22, 1958, in Tuscany, Italy.
Cause of Vision Loss
Bocelli, who was born with primary congenital glaucoma (PCG), became blind at 12 years old when he suffered a brain hemorrhage after getting hit on the head while playing football.
When he was a child, Bocelli found comfort in learning and playing music. A multi-instrumentalist, he began learning the piano at 6 years old and can play saxophone, trumpet, flute, trombone, drums, and guitar.
Bocelli has produced several hit songs, some of which have been duets with famous musical artists. Some of his outstanding hits include the following:
- Time to Say Goodbye or Con te partirò: Originally written in Italian, this song was first sung in 1995 at the Sanremo Music Festival. Bocelli sang the song with soprano singer Sarah Brightman in 1996.
- Perfect Symphony: Introduced in December 2017, this song is a collaboration of Bocelli and Ed Sheeran, and the song is sung in both English and Italian. The song’s YouTube video was the number one trending video when the song debuted.
- Because We Believe: This Bocelli original was created for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, held in Turin in 2006. The operatic tenor co-wrote the song with Grammy Award winner, David Foster and Foster’s daughter, Amy.
- The Prayer: Bocelli has sung this song with several female musical artists, including Céline Dion. This classic crossover song won the Golden Globe and 1999 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It also received accolades in 2000, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration, including vocals.
Andrea Bocelli Trivia
Andrea’s mother’s doctors recommended she terminate the pregnancy before Andrea was born. This was after the young pregnant woman was hospitalized for an attack of appendicitis. The physicians said this was the best course of action since the infant would be born disabled.
Below are some other facts you may not know about the musician:
- Bocelli studied law at the University of Pisa.
- After his classes, Bocelli played the piano to earn money. He also competed in singing contests locally, which eventually opened doors to his career in music.
Andrea Bocelli is lauded the world over by musical artists and fans. The following accomplishments show why he is such a popular artist:
- Bocelli is the biggest selling living artist in the classical music genre.
- He has record sales of more than 80 million records worldwide.
- He is the world’s most popular crossover artist.
- Bocelli has recorded entire operas, arias, and Neapolitan songs.
- He has gained recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records because he simultaneously held the three top spots on classical album charts in the U.S.
- Seven of Bocelli’s albums reached top 10 status on the Billboard 200.
- A record-setting 10 albums have placed in the top of the classical crossover album charges in the U.S.
Because of Bocelli’s determination and perseverance, his musical accomplishments have made him an inspiration to both musicians and fans worldwide.
Other Famous & Notable Blind Musicians
The above three musicians are only a sampling of several musicians who have applied their musical talents and accomplished great things with vision loss.
Some other performers with partial or total vision loss include the following:
- George Shearing: This self-taught jazz musician was born blind. At three years old, he learned to play the accordion and the piano on his own.
- Diane Schuur: This accomplished jazz musician is known for her musical creations that touch on the blues, country, and gospel.
- Nobuyuki Tsujii: This young Japanese composer and musician was born in 1998. He learns many of his songs by ear.
- Art Tatum: This jazz musician was born in 1909. He was blind in one eye and partially blind in his other eye.
- Terri Gibbs: This native of Miami, Florida, the country-turned-contemporary Christian musical artist has recorded 11 albums since she began singing in 1980.
- Leonard “Lennie” Tristano: This influential jazz musician stylized the jazz renditions of the 1940s and 1950s. He was born in 1919 in Chicago, Illinois.
- Ronnie Milsap: Considered one of the greatest musicians in country music, this musician and singer is known for hits such as “It Was Almost Like a Song” and “Stranger in My House.” He was one of the most influential country music entertainers in the 1970s and 1980s. HIs vision loss, which was due to a congenital disorder, led to a complete vision loss in one eye during his early teens.
Stevie Wonder. (October 2022). Encyclopedia Britannica.
Ray Charles. (September 2022). Encyclopedia Britannica.
Andrea Bocelli. (January 2023). Encyclopedia Britannica.
Juvenile Open Angle Glaucoma. (September 2022). EyeWiki, American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Brother Ray’s Message to the People. (February 2016). Smithsonian Music.
Primary Congenital Glaucoma. (August 2022). EyeWiki, American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Visually Impaired Musicians’ Insights: Narratives of Childhood, Lifelong Learning and Musical Participation. (March 2014). British Journal of Music Education.
How Blind and Visually Impaired Composers, Producers, and Songwriters Leverage and Adapt Music Technology. (October 2020). Proceedings of the 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility.
Severe Visual Impairment and Blindness in Infants: Causes and Opportunities for Control. (April–June 2011). Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated March 15, 2023
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