Jeff Healey was born in Toronto on March 25th 1966. At the age of eight months old Healey developed retinoblastoma, an unusual cancer of the eyes. His eyes were removed surgically and he was given man made replacements. He was adopted at one year old, and lived without cancer for 38 years until he developed
soft tissue sarcoma in his legs. He had surgery for this, but it was eventually what caused his death.
At the age of three years Jeff began playing the guitar. The young age at which he began to play probably mandated developing his own style of playing with the instrument flat on his lap. When he was 17 he formed his first band, Blue Direction, a four-piece band which primarily played cover tunes.
Soon after, he met bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen, with whom he formed a trio. The band made their first public performance at The Birds Nest, located at Chicago’s Diner on Queen Street West in Toronto. They earned a very positive write-up in Toronto’s NOW magazine, which propelled them into playing almost nightly in local clubs like Grossman’s Tavern and the famous blues club Albert’s Hall, this is where Jeff Healey was discovered by guitar geniuses Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins.
They were signed to Arista Records in 1988, the band then released the album See The Light, featuring the hit single “Angel Eyes” and the song “Hideaway”, nominated for a “Best Instrumental” Grammy Award. While recording See The Light, they were also filming and recording for the soundtrack of the Patrick Swayze film Road House. In 1990 the band won the “Entertainer of the Year” Juno Award.
Over the years he toured and sat-in with many legendary performers, including, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, BB King, ZZ Top, Steve Lukather, Eric Clapton and many, many more.
Healey discovered and helped to develop the careers of other artists, such as Amanda Marshall and Terra Hazelton.
On January 11, 2007, Healey underwent surgery to remove metastatic tissue from both of his lungs. In the prior eighteen months he had two surgery’s to remove sarcomas from his legs. On March 2, 2008 Jeff Healey died of cancer.
Jeff Healey was truly one of the gifted guitarists of our time. His talent was not about playing well in spite of an impairment, but rather playing so well that it was possible to miss that he was impaired in any way altogether.
Is it a coincidence or something more powerful that he met an early death like Stevie Ray. Take a look at this video of Jeff Healey and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Enjoy these videos, Jeff is missing nothing musicically and guitar wise. Most of us would give our left nut to play with his emotion and skill. Don’t take anything for granted, Jeff Healey is an inspiration to Guitar Players Center. Proof that with the desire and effort, you can do anything. Watch the videos.