Despite my seemingly calm and sane exterior, I often have strange thoughts, worst-case-scenario kinds of things. I imagine what I would do in this or that parlous situation if it were to arise.
Despite my seemingly calm and sane exterior, I often have strange thoughts, worst-case-scenario kinds of things. I imagine what I would do in this or that parlous situation if it were to arise. Even with dreams, I keep working out resolutions after I’ve woken up, sometimes at the detriment of getting more sleep.
One of my doomsday considerations is this: if I had to lose my speech, sight, or hearing, which would I forsake? I always go with speech. As a writer, I’m used to communicating non-verbally. Also, I love music and the sounds of nature far too much to give up my aural capacity; and to be sight-less just seems too vulnerable and dependent. I feel hamstrung enough as it is with my current myopic eyes as I squinny in the darkness of the night! I certainly don’t want the carceral experience of not seeing at all, even if so many people have done great things despite – or because of – that very hindrance.
Music, actually, is a field wherein blind folks have succeeded almost beyond imagining. Interestingly, there is a long tradition of myth when it comes to blind musicians, but often very little in the way of actual specimens are to be found in the deep annals of history, save the Chinese court musicians. Contemporary times, though, they offer up a different story.
Gospel and blues music have long been bastions of the blind. From the first-ever recorded gospel Sanctified barrelhouse piano player, Arizona Dranes, the dye was cast and many greats would follow. Among them were Ray Charles, who was pivotal in the evolution of soul music, and Art Tatum, who is often cited as the greatest jazz pianist of all time.
At the core of the blues and gospel genres have been artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, and Blind Willie McTell, who wore their disabilities right up front. The idea of an authentic black blues man being blind was so prevalent that non-blind jazz guitarist Eddie Lang chose the pseudonym Blind Willie Dunn when he recorded with Lonnie Johnson. (Seems he thought that better than selling his soul to the devil.)
Way back in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, a gospel group formed and, quite fittingly, dubbed themselves the Blind Boys of Alabama. The three vocalists and drummer are all without sight, but that hasn’t stopped them from winning numerous awards and being inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame.
There are also hugely successful blind artists outside of those genres. With 22 Grammy awards, Stevie Wonder holds the record for most wins by a solo artist. For his contribution to the lineage, Andrea Boccelli is the best-selling solo Classical music artist of all time. Then there’s Ronnie Milsap, one of the most successful country crossover artists in history.
Still and all, I don’t have the musical chops that any of these guys do, so I’m going to stick with my original choice of foregoing speech. After all, who doesn’t love the strong, silent type?