Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Angel Eyes Closed, But Not Forgotten

I was sad to learn that Jeff Healey has passed away. He was a musician who could rock with the best of them. He played onstage with some great musicians, including BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He recorded with George Harrison and Mark Knopfler. In recent years, he was able to devote his music to what he loved: jazz.

He was host of a long-running CBC radio series called My Kinda Jazz, and later hosted another show on Toronto's Jazz FM, and would feature long forgotten jazz songs from his collection of 30,000 (!!) vinyl records and 78s. I will always remember him as a rock musician. Healey was the frontman for the Jeff Healey Band (well, I guess that's obvious). He won a Juno award, had international acclaim and platinum record sales with his album "See the Light."

There is more to his passing than just another musician gone silent early in life. He was only 41. Although anyone who had seen him play, or knew anything about him, you would know that he was blind. Jeff had lost his sight at the age of one due to cancer. But blindness did not define Jeff. Cancer did not define Jeff. Blindness perhaps drew attention because of his unique playing style that he developed when learning how to play the guitar at 3 years old.

Instead of wallowing, Jeff got busy with life, making life work for himself with the talents that he was blessed with. He toured as a young man, got married and raised a family, ran businesses, played in a couple of bands, and probably a lot more that I don't even know about. He carried on with life, instead of letting blindness or cancer define him.

There's a lesson in that for both those struggling with disabilities, and for those out there who hold these people back based on their perceptions of what these people can achieve or become. Blindness isn't their biggest handicap, but given their own perceptions of self and by others, that can become the biggest handicap.

I leave you with Angel Eyes.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

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