Disability is any kind of physical or mental impairment that limits the activity capacity of an individual. It can be present at birth or developed at some point in life. Illness, accidents or late emerging effect of genetics can cause disability. Disability hinders one’s ability to play or write music yet some disabled musicians overcome their disability to produce great music. These musicians did pour sugar on us and inspire us to live out our dreams. We compiled a list of top disabled musicians who continue to motivate us. This is just a fraction of the musicians who struggled and win over disability. They all provide the disabled and able bodied with encouragement to fulfil their dreams of becoming a successful musician.
Lupus & Vitiligo
Michael Jackson is one the most famous musician with Lupus and Vitiligo. His famous white gloves has been introduced to cover the discoloration of his hand from Vitiligo. This disease causes discoloration and skin blotches. He battled this skin problem over the years of his career. Lupus has impacted him from ultra violet light from the sun and fluorescent lights. The combination of Lupus and Vitiligo explain some of his public behavioural issues. He used fashion to deal with his disabilities and became a fashion icon and king of pop.
This singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer was born blind. He can play the piano, organ, harmonica and drums. He did not let his blindness stop him from providing great lyrics and music. He received 22 Grammy Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award and he’s inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was even named United Nations Messenger of Peace. He has been successful since the 60’s and continues to play music today.
Asthmatic Kenny Gorelick happens to the most famous saxophone player in the world. He is a Grammy Winner with 48 million records – making him the 25th highest selling recording artist in America. If you think asthma would be a difficult disability for playing a musical instrument, think twice. Kenny G’s asthma didn’t block his career in fact he has the world record of playing the longest note on a saxophone. A study proved that playing an instrument or singing may actually help improve muscle flexibility of the lungs. This may allow people with asthma to breathe deeper without fatigue.
Michael Bolton is most popular for his soft rock ballads, as well as his past heavy metal. This famous balladeer influenced the world with his compositions and performances. Many don’t know that he suffered from tinnitus and deafness in one ear. Despite his conditions Bolton continue to be a great musician stirring the hearts of millions. He also got into composing songs for other artist including Kenny G, Patti LaBelle and KISS.
ALS/ Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Becker is a neo-classical guitarist who achieved fame when he was 16. This former guitarist for David Roth lived with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for 25 years. The doctors gave him a few years to live after his diagnosis with ALS but he defied medical odds by surviving decades longer. Amid his paralysis, he composes music through the aid of a computer with the assistance of collaborators.
Tamia Washington Hill is an R&B superstar and the wife of NBA icon Grant Hill. She’s diagnosed with MS at the age of 28. After educating herself about MS she set out to make others more aware of the disease. She started inspiring others with MS diagnosis that it is not the end of their hopes and dreams. She and her husband advocate for National MS Society to raise awareness and understanding about multiple sclerosis.
Polio, epilepsy and diabetes
Neil Young is a folk rocker from Canada. He’s a singer, songwriter and guitarist. He contracted polio when he was six, had diabetes and epilepsy. He also underwent brain aneurism surgery in 2005. He gained the nickname “The Godfather of Grudge” because of his influence on this genre. He is a strong advocate for disability and the environment. He created recreation programs for people with disabilities and performs at benefit concerts every year.
Michaels was Poison’s lead singer who’s diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was six years old. Diabetes makes the pancreas unable to make insulin and convert food into energy. This chronic disease did not slow him down instead he had a successful career with the band Poison and a solo career. He’s not only a musician but a songwriter, television personality and actor. This talented entertainer helps to raise money for the American Diabetes Association.
Stanley Eisen in real life is the rhythm guitarist and lead singer of the rock band KISS. He is also a songwriter, painter and author. He was born with Microtia, a rare congenital deformity where his outer ear is extremely underdeveloped. Microtia left him deaf n his right ear. Stanley inspires people by going beyond their disability. He is the spokesman of About Face an organisation that supports and provides information to people with facial deformity.
Def Leppard drummer lost his left arm in a car accident. Allen did not let his disability come in the way of his music career. After his full arm amputation he has custom drum set designed by engineers that allows him to play the snare on his left foot. He returned to the stage with an album two years after the accident and sold more than 20 million copies.
Winter is an American blues musician who experimented with multiple instruments. He plays keyboards, saxophone and drums. He can be easily recognised by his albinism or lack of pigmentation in the skin and hair. Lack of pigmentation resulted in visual impairment and photophobia. Although intense light can be painful and create white blindness, Winter continued to perform on stage with his band. He’s credited with coming up with the idea of putting a strap on electronic keyboard. He has nearly 20 albums to his credit with some singles including “Free Ride” “Shock Treatment” and “Frankenstein.”
Mary Wells is one of the best female singers in the music industry. She is the founder of the famous “Motown Sound” and the frst lady of Motown Records. She has spinal meningitis when she as a child. It left her with temporary paralysis, slight loss of hearing and partial blindness. The Beatles declared her their favourite American singer and called her “their sweetheart.”