Monday, March 10, 2008


Jeff Healey, Guitarist and Singer, Dies at 41

Published: March 4, 2008
Jeff Healey, a Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter whose band sold millions of blues-rock records and who also pursued a passion for old-time jazz, playing the trumpet and clarinet, died on Sunday, March 2nd, in Toronto. He was 41. He died of lung cancer, his publicists said.
Mr. Healey, who was blind, played his guitar with the instrument flat on his lap, resulting in what Guitar Player magazine called “astoundingly fluid bends and vibrato.” He blended jazz, rock and the blues.
Mr. Healey’s greatest success came in the late 1980s, when his band recorded the album “See the Light.” It reached platinum status in the United States by selling more than one million copies and eventually two million worldwide. A single from that album, “Angel Eyes,” was the Jeff Healey Band’s only Top 40 hit, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1989.
The same year the band performed the soundtrack for “Road House,” a movie starring actor
Patrick Swayze. The band also had speaking parts. Soon the group was big enough to be booked in stadiums.
Mr. Healey also played the trumpet and clarinet in his own traditional jazz band, the Jazz Wizards. He collected as many as 30,000 old-time jazz records, mainly those on 78 r.p.m., which he played as the host of an hour-long radio show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Mr. Healey, son of a firefighter, was born and raised near Toronto. He lost his sight to eye cancer when he was a year old and was given his first guitar two years later. At a school for the blind, he was shown how to play the guitar the usual way but found it felt more comfortable on his lap.
At a Toronto-area high school he played the guitar and trumpet in school bands. His early guitar inspirations were country stylists like Chet Atkins, but he moved on to
Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and B. B. King, according to the reference work Contemporary Musicians. He studied music theory on his own.
He formed the Jeff Healey Band in 1985, with the drummer Tom Stephen and the bassist Joe Rockman. The trio gave as many as 300 concerts a year for about two years before signing with Arista Records in 1988. Their second album for the label (after “See the Light”) was “Hell to Pay,” which featured guest artists including
George Harrison.
As the group’s popularity grew, so did their concert venues. Jon Pareles, writing in The New York Times in 1989, described the band’s music as “showy, arena-style blues rock,” although he praised Mr. Healey’s technique.
In 1990, a reader poll in Guitar Player magazine named Mr. Healey the best blues guitarist and best new talent.
Mr. Healey is survived by his wife, Cristie; his daughter, Rachel; and his son, Derek.
By 2002, Mr. Healey had opened a music club named after himself in Toronto; he later closed it to open a larger one. In 2003, he started his jazz band.
He made a total of 10 albums, including both jazz and blues-rock; it would be hard to guess that some of the albums were by the same artist. In January 2007, Guitar Player said, “Jeff Healey may be the only cat around who can play the prewar jazz of
Louis Armstrong on the trumpet, and the heavy electric blues-rock of ZZ Top on the guitar.”
Jeff Healey - See The Light

My first exposure to Jeff Healey was via T.V. I don't remember which show it was but I do remember watching him in amazement as he wailed on a guitar, laid across his lap. That in itself was pretty impressive but to do it without the benefit of something most all of us take for granted, sight, made what I was watching even more amazing. It wasn't long after that T.V. performance that I bought his album called "SEE THE LIGHT". I never got to see him live but I have spent a fair amount of time listening to his recordings since 1989. If you've never heard his music and what I mean by that is if you've never really sat down and paid attention to what he was doing then I'd like to suggest you start with the album "SEE THE LIGHT" and then go from there. Trust me when I say it will be worth your time.
READ THIS for more information on this album.


Blogger Camarillo Brillo said...

Great write up Tom. I got to see him in 1991 at Hammerjacks in Baltimore. Come visit for more Jeff!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 10:43:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am astonished. I have to admit my only knowledge of his music was limited to that goofy "Angel Eyes" top-40 tune. Like a blond Hendrix.

Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 12:26:00 PM EDT  

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