There are millions of people worldwide who are considered disabled but who have risen in their various areas of specialisation. They may not be famous in the sense society deems fit but they still live with, battle, and overcome their disability every single day of their lives. The list of these exceptional people is a constant work in progress and was created to prove that it is indeed possible to overcome the so called disability barrier.
Gospel artiste, Ayefele, who unfortunately became disabled as an adult in a motor accident is one of the most respected gospel singers that Nigeria can boast of at the moment. When asked during an interview what it feels like to be crippled and also be able to make it to this height, he was quick to lament his predicament as a handicapped musician.
“Whenever I see people dancing to my music, I see them dancing my mind. I also dance even as I am on the wheel chair. I feel so happy and most times, I feel like jumping out of my wheel chair to dance with them because I see them doing what I want and would do if I could. My saddest moment was in Lagos. My car broke down on my way to a show and my boys set out to look for another vehicle to convey me to Ilesa. So I decided to go to a nearby filling station to relax. As I was trying to wheel myself into the filling station, a man just stopped me and said ‘eh...eh...
we don’t allow beggars here’! I cried and I told him I was not a beggar. I had to ask him if he truly didn’t know who I was. And even if he did not know it was me, I don’t think it is right to drive anybody from anywhere because he is disabled. Even though most of us do not want people to deal with us in sympathy, we also do not want to be discriminated against.
There are a lot of artistes all over the world who are going through the same situation but for the courage to over come and soldiering on. There is no guarantee that you would like all the artistes on this list, but you may come to respect each a little more, knowing what they had to contend with.
Many consider Itzhak Perlman 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 (you may have caught him at American president Barack Obama’s inauguration). Charlie Daniels calls him “Sir”.
Edgar Winter is an American blues musician. An instrumentalist who is at home on keyboards, saxophone, percussion and vocals, Edgar was most successful in the 70s with The Edgar Winter Group. He is easily recognised by his albinism. Due to the lack of pigmentation in their irises, many albinos are very sensitive to light. Yet Winter has made a career on brightly lit stages playing Frankenstein from his great album, They Only Come Out at Night.
Paul Stanley Eisen (stage name Paul Stanley) is the rhythm guitarist and lead singer of the marketing juggernaut/rock band, KISS. Stanley was born with Microtia, a rare congenital deformity where the fleshy part of the outer ear (the Pinna) is extremely underdeveloped or absent entirely. His solution to avoid schoolyard teasing was to grow his hair long, and that kind of chose his later profession. Stanley is also the spokesman for About Face an organisation that provides support and information to individuals with facial differences.
Bret Michaels, Poison’s lead singer was only six when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a disease that renders the pancreas unable to make insulin, a hormone essential for converting food into energy. At 10, 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 Poison and sold 25 million records by constantly touring a frenetic stage show. He is in his forties now, still tours and can be seen on his own reality TV show, Courting Loose Women.
Kenny G, asthmatic Kenneth Gorelick is a Grammy-award winning saxophonist once rejected from the University of Washington music programme. Today he could buy the University of Washington. His smooth jazz expanded the jazz market exponentially and sold 48 million records–making him the 25th highest selling recording artiste in America. One of his most successful albums is titled “Breathless”.
Ray Charles was an American treasure/musician who mixed gospel, blues and country in the 50s and 60’s. The son of a sharecropper, he became blind at a very young age. 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 Artistes of All Time” and their readers voted him number 2 on the list of “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. He was the last artiste to arrive for the We are the World recording sessions and when he entered the studio, the room finally had soul. You could hear a pin drop.
Du Pré Jacqueline, OBE, was a British cellist acknowledged as one of the greatest players of the instrument. She is particularly associated with Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor; her interpretation of that work has been described as “definitive” and “legendary”. Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to cease performing at the age of 28 and led to her premature death .There has never been a cellist like her and her early death is a tragedy.
Tony Iommi after an accident in a sheet metal factory, 17 year old southpaw Tony Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand. He considered quitting music, but a record by similarly-injured jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt encouraged him to keep playing. After failing at playing right-handed, Iommi strung his guitars with banjo strings and wore plastic covers over the two damaged fingers. He made the covers by melting plastic bottles and dipping his fingers in while the plastic was soft enough to be shaped. He then completed the easier tasks of forming Black Sabbath, selling 20+ million albums, and becoming a highly influential guitarist himself.
Rick Allen 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 1987, the band released their fourth album, Hysteria, which sold over 20 million copies.
Ludwig Van Beethoven as a child, he practiced to stop his father beating his mother.
As a man, his name is synonymous with musical mastery, and he wrote the most famous notes of music in the history of man. According to Flame Horse (who knows his classical music), “(Beethoven’s) finest works are also the finest works of their kind in music history: 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”.
Michael Bolton is most notably known for his soft rock ballads, as well as his past heavy metal singer for Blackjack. However, many don’t know that Bolton is deaf in one ear. He first came to the forefront after co-writing How Am I Supposed to Live Without You? As well as for singing Gloria, a disco hit at the time.
Stevie Wonder definitely deserves a spot on the list. Despite the fact that he was born blind, Wonder has been able to inspire many and continues to provide great lyrics and music. He has been successful since the early 1960s, and today continues to play his music. Signed with Motown Records at 11, Wonder has been able to produce more than 30 top ten hits in the U.S. During his career, he has also received 22 Grammy Awards and even a Lifetime Achievement Award.