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Inspiring Musicians

Famous Physically Challenged Musicians

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Are there days when you're frustrated with the way you play and feel like you're making very little progress? In times of self-doubt, remind yourself of the many musicians, composers and performers who overcame physical limitations and various obstacles. Here's a list of famous musicians and popular performers who are physically challenged, I hope this list inspires you to continue learning.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) - Beethoven became deaf in his late 20s but continued to create such beautiful music that is still much appreciated today. He wrote Symphony No. 2, op. 36 (D Major), Symphony No. 3 Eroica, op. 55 (E flat Major) Symphony No. 4, op. 60 (B flat Major) and other great masterpieces after he became deaf.

Michael Bolton (born February 26, 1953) - An American singer/songwriter who popularized such songs as "Said I Loved You But I Lied" and "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" He is reportedly deaf in one ear.

Itzhak Perlman (born August 31, 1945) - Is a violin virtuoso. He received training at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv then continued to Juilliard School. In 1964, he won the Leventritt Competition; he has also won several Grammy's and appeared on various television shows. Perlman had polio when he was 4 years old resulting in the permanent paralysis of his legs.

Lemon Jefferson (1893 - 1929) - Blind since childhood, this guitarist and blues singer was very popular during the 1920s.

William Samuel McTell (1901 - 1959) - Lost his eyesight late in his childhood but became one of the best blues guitarists.

Ray Charles (1930 - 2004) - American singer, composer and pianist. He became blind when he was 7 due to glaucoma. He has won dozens of Grammy awards, is in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Jazz Hall of Fame.

Jose Feliciano (born September 10, 1945) - Puerto Rican guitarist and singer who was blind at birth due to glaucoma. He won several Grammy's and is considered one of the best folk guitarists of our time.

Evelyn Glennie (born July 19, 1965) - A virtuoso percussionist from Scotland, is hearing impaired since she was 12. She received a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance in 1989.

Stevie Wonder (born May 13, 1950) - American singer/songwriter and musician who won numerous Grammy's, also an Oscar and is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame. As a newborn, his eyes were reportedly damaged due to high doses of oxygen while in an incubator.

Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt (1910 - 1953) - A European jazz musician; the two fingers of his left hand was impaired due to a fire. He was known for his improvisations and toured with the Duke Ellington orchestra in 1946.

Andrea Bocelli (born September 22, 1958) - Famous Italian tenor who had glaucoma when he was a child which caused him to become blind. Bocelli is a popular operatic tenor as well as a crossover artist.

Know of other musicians and performers who should be on this list? Email it to musiced@aboutguide.com.

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