Rock Stars: 5 Legendary Musicians with Disabilities

Music inspires me every day. What is even more inspiring is a musician who has lived or lives with disabilities. Some musicians can even make their sound unique because of their disability. Here are just a few of my favorite musicians who also happen to be living with a disability.

Rick Allen, Drummer for Def Leppard

Rick Allen lost his arm at the shoulder in a car crash. The electronic drumming company Simmons created a new drum set for Rick so he could continue to drum with one arm.  To this day he is still playing drums and was ranked 7th on Gigwise’s list of the 100 Best Drummers of all time.  Rick has founded the Raven Drum Foundation to empower Veterans and people in crisis. He has also founded the One Hand Drum Company where he uses drawings of himself drumming one handed to provide funding and awareness for the Raven Drum Foundation. You can see a video of Rick in action below!

Tony Iommi, Guitarist for Black Sabbath

Tony Iommi cut two fingers off at the first knuckle when working in a factory as a teenager.  He was told by doctors that he would never play guitar again. Tony considered giving up on guitarist, but was influenced to continue by jazz guitarist Django Reinhart, who only plays with two fingers after an injury in a fire.  Tony is currently in the top 25 guitarists of all time according to Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Guitarists of all Time. He definitely proved those doctors wrong!

Teddy Pendergrass, Legendary R&B Singer

Teddy Pendergrass was a R & B singer from Magee’s hometown Philly — in fact, he was a patient here at Magee.  He sustained a spinal cord injury and was quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.  After his injury, he was able to perform at the historic Live Aid in front of 1.5 billion television viewers.  Teddy, who passed away in 2010 from colon cancer,  founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, an organization that helps those with spinal cord injuries.

Les Paul, Creator of the Gibson Les Paul

In 1948, Les Paul shattered his right arm and elbow in a car accident. The doctors told him they could not repair his elbow. They set his arm in a permanent and unmovable position under 90 degrees so he would be able to cradle and play a guitar. Les Paul was involved in the creation of one of the world’s most popular guitars, the Gibson Les Paul. He is also credited with popularizing the recording and playing techniques that would define the sound of Rock and Roll. He is one of the only people in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a permanent and stand-alone exhibit.

Robert Wyatt, Drummer for Soft Machine and Matching Mole

Robert Wyatt fell from a 4th story window and is paralyzed from the waist down.  After the accident, he quit playing drums for his band Soft Machine, but started a solo career. He took on more of a jazz style where he doesn’t use his feet to drum. His solo album Rock Bottom has been quoted as one of the best rock albums of all time. Robert Wyatt’s band was featured in the 1981 issue of New Musical Express, with his whole band pictured in wheelchairs.


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