Friday, March 07, 2008

Musician Jeff Healey dies of cancer

Musician Jeff Healey dies of cancer
The Canadian Press(Chris Wattie/Canadian Press)

Rock and jazz musician Jeff Healey died Sunday in a Toronto hospital after a battle with cancer, his publicist said.

He was 41.

Healey lost his sight at age one as a result of Retinoblastoma, a rare form of retinal cancer.

Due to his blindness, Healey taught himself to play guitar with the instrument held across his lap while seated.

His unique playing style, combined with his blues-oriented vocals, earned him a reputation as a teenage musical prodigy. He shared stages with George Harrison, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

But Healey's true love was jazz, the genre that dominated his three most recent albums.

His death came weeks before the release of his first rock album in eight years, his website said.

Mess of Blues is slated for a North American release on April 22.

Much of Healey's commercial success came as the frontman for the Jeff Healey Band, a Juno-winning act that achieved platinum record sales in the United States with the 1988 record See the Light.

Despite deteriorating record sales in the 1990s, Healey kept busy with radio shows on the CBC and a local Toronto jazz station where he spun long-forgotten classics from his personal collection of more than 30,000 vinyl records.

The Grammy-nominated musician is survived by his wife Christie and two children.

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