Disabled Artists Soldier On To Make Hot Music


The following partially or wholly disabled artists all had one thing in common, soldiering on making music against the odds when most would forgive them for choosing a quiet life out of the public eye. Itzhak Perlman, a polio sufferer that many consider to be the greatest violin player of the 20th century. He contracted polio at the age of four, but made a good recovery, and learned to walk aided by crutches. Today, he generally uses crutches or a scooter to get around. He plays violin while seated which he did at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. Charlie Daniels famously calls him “Sir”.

Paul Stanley of KISS fame, battled with the illness Microtia, a rare congenital deformity where the fleshy part of the outer ear (the Pinna) is underdeveloped or absent entirely. His solution to avoid schoolyard teasing was to grow his hair long albeit choosing his later profession. Stanley is also the spokesman for About Face an organization that provides support and information to individuals with facial differences.

Bret Michaels, lead singer of U.S band Poison, suffered from type 1 diabetes, he was only six when diagnosed with the disease that renders the pancreas unable to make insulin, a hormone essential for converting food into energy. At ten, he went to the Kno-Koma diabetes camp, met other diabetic kids, and learned to legally shoot up and eat correctly. After that he joined the hit band Poison selling 25 million plus music records.

Kenny G was plagued by Asthma throughout his glittering career. Full name Kenneth Gorelick, a Grammy-award winning saxophonist once rejected from the University of Washington music program. Today he could buy the University of Washington. His smooth jazz music expanded the jazz market exponentially and sold 48 million records making him the 25th highest selling recording artist in America. One of his most successful albums is titled “Breathless”.

Ray Charles overcame all the obstacles of blindness in his rise to fame and fortune. An American treasure/ musician who mixed gospel, blues, and country in the 1950s and 1960’s. The son of a sharecropper, his version of “Georgia On My Mind” was proclaimed the state song of Georgia in 1979, only a decade and change from the days of Jim Crow. Rolling Stone ranked him number ten on their list of “The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and their readers voted him number two on the list of “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. He was the last artist to arrive for the “We are the World” recording sessions, and when he entered the studio, the room finally had soul.

Jacqueline du Pré, a rare British cellist acknowledged as one of the greatest players of the instrument, particularly associated with Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor; her interpretation of that work has been described as definitive and legendary. However, her music career was cut short by multiple sclerosis forcing her to cease performing at the age of 28 and would lead to her premature death. There has never been a cellist like her and many classical musical lovers consider her early death as one of the foremost tragedies of our time.

Driving to a 1984 New Year’s Eve party, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen was thrown from his Corvette, severing his left arm. Doctors initially reattached the arm, but were forced to remove it due to infection. Soon after, Allen and some engineers designed an electronic drum kit allowing his left foot to play the snare. Drum manufacturer Simmons built a kit to the needed specs, and Allen returned to the stage in 1986, only two years after the accident. In August of 1987, the band released their fourth album, Hysteria, which sold over 20 million copies.

Ludwig Van Beethoven name is synonymous with musical mastery, and he wrote the most famous notes of music in the history of man. The 9th Symphony, the 5th Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, the Late Quartets, and the Missa Solemnis. And he achieved all this despite being completely deaf for the last 25 years of his life.