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President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law in 1990. As a result, disabled people have gained greater access to services nondisabled people take for granted. The ADA may also be partly responsible for an increased presence of disabled people in popular culture, including music of all genres. The popularity of the singing, rapping, wheelchair-riding character Artie Abrams (played by non-disabled actor Kevin McHale) on the hit TV show Glee pushed that show’s producers to cast disabled actors in a variety of guest roles. So who are some examples of real-life disabled individuals who are also incredible musicians?
Bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff is currently one of the most successful singers in classical music. Quasthoff was one of thousands of babies who were born severely deformed as a result of their mothers innocently taking the drug Thalidomide for morning sickness. “I am not here as some sort of role model,” says Quasthoff in a recent interview. “Of course, maybe at first people would come to see a freak. But they come a second time, so then I know it’s for my singing.”
Virtuoso solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12. She hears sound, but at a barely audible level that necessitates her being able to read the lips of people speaking to her. She has written an essay explaining her deafness and how she is able to play complex dynamic music in spite of it.
British post-punk singer and band leader Ian Dury contracted polio as a child, leaving him with limited use of his legs and a shrunken arm. Always provocative as a performer and lyricist, he composed his 1981 hit song “Spasticus Autisticus” as a reaction to that year’s International Year of Disabled Persons, an initiative by the United Nations that Dury considered misguided, patronizing, and self-serving.
Blind since shortly after birth, singer, keyboardist and composer Stevie Wonder is truly an American icon. He has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and received 22 Grammys, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist.
French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disease that caused his very short stature. Although he passed at the young age of 36, Petrucciani left an extensive recorded legacy. He performed live with some of the greatest musicians in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter.
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Vic Chesnutt’s songs have been covered by some of the biggest names in popular music. Partially paralyzed at the age of 18 as a result of an automobile accident, Chesnutt struggled with health issues and depression for most of his life. In spite of support from musicians like Michael Stipe, Chesnutt tragically committed suicide in 2009. His musical legacy continues to resonate among independent musicians across genres.
7. Prudence Mabheya:
Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabheya is the subject of the critically acclaimed 2009 documentary Music by Prudence, which also features her band Liyana. Each member of Liyana is physically handicapped. Mabheya was born with arthogryposis, a rare congenital disorder, in a society where some people consider disabilities to be the result of witchcraft.
Drummer Rick Allen of the mighty Def Leppard lost his left arm in a car accident in 1984. But Allen refused to quit playing music. Using a specially developed semi-electronic kit, Allen continues to drum with the band to this day, both in the studio and live.
Classical violinist Itzhak Perlman contracted polio at the age of 4. A child prodigy, Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 18. Using crutches or a scooter for mobility, Perlman continues to record, perform, teach, and, in spite of his condition, conduct across the globe.
Blinded at birth, jazz singer and pianist Diane Schuur used to hide in a closet as a child and sing to herself for comfort. Now, in addition to being a Grammy-winning musician, she is the first national spokesperson for the Los Angeles based Disability Rights Legal Center.Source: .wordpress