Blind Willie Johnson: Musician and Preacher
Blind Willie Johnson, considered “one of the masters of blues,” drew from the expressiveness of the blues in creating religious messages. He mastered the bottleneck guitar technique in his gospel singing. One of his songs, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” was selected by NASA in 1977 for the Voyager Golden Record based on a NASA consultant’s observation that “Johnson’s song concerns a situation he faces many times: nightfall with no place to sleep. Since humans appeared on Earth, the shroud of night has yet to fall without touching a man or woman in the same plight. More About Blind Willie Johnson
For a recording of the song: YouTube
Jazz Piano Soloist Art Tatum
Ranked among the greatest jazz piano soloists, Art Tatum was blind from birth in one eye and had partial sight in the other. He was mostly self-taught, from recordings and other musicians, although he had some formal training at the Toledo School of Music. He learned to read sheet music using glasses and Braille. He had his own radio show in Toledo, later going to New York as accompanist to the singer Adelaide Hall. “Among his first recordings… was ‘Tiger Rag’ which displays astonishing dexterity. Legend has it that classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz was so awed by Tatum’s ability that it brought him to tears.” For more detail: Kennedy Center Article on Art Tatum.
Hear the full album of Tatum’s Greatest Hits
Geraldine Jerrie Lawhorn: Actress, Pianist, Teacher
Geraldine Jerrie Lawhorn, a figure in the American Deaf-Blind community, achieved renown as a performer, actress pianist and educator. She was an instructor at the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired and in later years traveled across the nation to educate people on how to teach deaf-blind individuals. At 67 years old, she became the first deaf-blind African American to earn a college degree in the United States of America, and the sixth deaf-blind American to achieve that milestone. More About Geraldine Jerrie Lawhorn.