Monday, March 3, 2008
Jeff Healey 1967-2008
Legendary blues and jazz guitarist Jeff Healey has died, his publicist said Sunday. The Canadian musician had battled cancer his entire life.
"It was something he fought with considerable bravery," his publicist, Richard Flohil, told Newsnet late Sunday.
Healey, 41, had lost his eyesight to a rare form of the disease, Retinoblastoma, at the age of one.
The musician had performed with such acclaimed guitar players as B. B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins and George Harrison.
His full name was Norman Jeffrey Healey and he passed away Sunday in the city of his birth, Toronto, at St. Joseph's Hospital.
Healey first began playing guitar at the age of three and formed his first band while still a teenager, according to his website. He played with a very distinctive style, laying his guitar on his lap.
"Visually, Jeff was an intriguing player to watch, because he played guitar -- by any conventional standard -- all wrong, with it flat across his lap," said Flohil. "But he was remarkable, a virtuoso player."
One of his best-known songs, "Angel Eyes," came from the Grammy-nominated album See the Light.
His blues band, simply called the Jeff Healey Band, has sold more than 1 million albums in the United States. But along with rock and blues music, Healey was also an accomplished jazz musician.
In his final years he had hosted a jazz program on Jazz-FM in Toronto, playing rare tracks from his vast collection of more than 30,000 78-rpm records.
He had also been touring with a group called the Jazz Wizards, playing American jazz from the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s.
They had been planning to perform a series of shows in Britain, German and Holland in April.
Healey leaves behind his wife, Cristie, 13-year-old daughter Rachel and three-year-old son Derek.
I saw Jeff Healey perform in Montreux in 1997 as a guest of the Thierry Lang Trio. He had an acoustic guitar, and nothing else, and it was some of the most amazing modern blues guitar playing I have ever heard in my life. Most people immediately tend to think Stevie Ray Vaughn. No, Jeff Healey was the best of the modern day blues men. May he rest in peace.
Here's a performance with his band at Montreux in 1997: