The Late Movies: Great Performances by Blind Musicians

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As a musician (OK, maybe musician is too strong a word; I do, after all, play the banjo), I'm impressed by anyone who has total control of his or her instrument. Whatever your axe of choice, if you can make the thing sing, it's impressive. These performances are impressive, sure. They'd be impressive no matter who did them. They're just that much more impressive because the musicians are blind.

Jeff Healey: "See the Light"

Healey had a brief stint on the rock/pop stage in the late "˜80s/early "˜90s with his work in the movie Roadhouse, but it was really his work as a blues and jazz guitarist that set him apart. That and the unique lap-style he uses to shred!

Rashaan Roland Kirk: "Making Love After Hours"

Kirk thought that just playing one saxophone was a bit boring, so he played three, plus a flute, a nose flute, a clarinet, a police siren, and anything else he could get his hands on. Had he just stuck to one sax at a time, he'd probably be remembered as one of the best players of the 20th century. Instead, his rather crazy penchant for multiple horns has discounted his musicality in the mind of jazz purists. I still think he's pretty swell.

Ray Charles: "In The Evening"

Brother Ray. "˜Nuff said.

Doc Watson: "Black Mountain Rag"

Probably one of the finest flat-picking bluegrass guitarists ever, Doc Watson. Roll forward to 1:00 for the start of the song, or to 3:00 to see the fireworks show.

Stevie Wonder: "Alfie"

Stevie has been a popular subject here on Late Movies. I figured I'd choose a clip showing off his harmonica skills. Gotta dig that Burt Bacharach creepily staring at Stevie the whole time. Fast forward to 1:30 for the start of the song.

Marcus Roberts: "Ain't Misbehavin'"

Roberts was a fixture in Wynton Marsalis's band in the "˜80s and into the "˜90s. He's pretty much a stud.

Bob Ringwald: "The Pearls"

Bob is a fixture in the traditional jazz scene here in Sacramento. His piano playing is pretty stellar. He also happens to be the father of "˜80s fixture Molly Ringwald.

Nobuyuki Tsujii: "Etude No. 3"

This is just flat out impressive.

Art Tatum: "Yesterdays"

This is cheating just a little. Tatum was legally blind by today's standards, blind in one eye and with only about 10% vision in the other. Nevertheless, he was probably the most technically proficient jazz pianist of all time.
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This is by no means a complete list. If you know of any other great blind musicians, let us know in the comments.

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March 23, 2010 - 6:00pm
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