With his poignant performances, renowned Canadian guitarist and blues-rock master Jeff Healey made a lasting impression on the music landscape. Healey, who was born on March 25, 1966, had hardship early in life when retinoblastoma caused him to lose his vision. He nevertheless became an expert guitarist and developed a distinctive lap-style playing style.
Jeff Healey’s adventure tragically ended on March 2, 2008, when he passed away from sarcoma, an uncommon type of cancer. Questions over the circumstances behind this musical icon’s exit from the stage persisted as fans lamented his passing.
How Did Jeff Healy Die?
Healey had surgery on January 11, 2007, to remove malignant tissue that had spread to both of his lungs. He had had two sarcomas removed from his legs in the last eighteen months.
At the age of 41, Healey passed away in his hometown of Toronto on March 2, 2008, from sarcoma. In Etobicoke, Ontario, at Park Lawn Cemetery, Mausoleum & Cremation Centre, he was laid to rest. His first rock/blues album in eight years, Mess of Blues, was set to be released a month before Healey passed away.
Jeff Healy’s Early Life
Healey was reared in Toronto, Ontario, and was born in the west end of the city. His adopted father was a firefighter, and he had been adopted as a baby. Retinoblastoma, an uncommon eye malignancy, took Healey’s sight when he was just over a year old. He required surgery to remove his eyes, and ocular prosthetics were provided.
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Jeff Healy’s Career
At the age of three, Healy picked up the guitar and began to develop his distinctive method of playing it flat on his lap. His musical abilities were first shown in an interview on the TVOntario kids’ show Cucumber when he was nine years old.
At fifteen, Healey started a four-piece band called Blue Direction, which mainly played cover songs for bar bands. The other members of the group were Rob Quail, a classmate on second guitar, drummer Graydon Chapman, and bassist Jeremy Littler.
The band performed at Toronto nightclubs such as the Colonial Tavern. Healy started a jazz and blues program on CIUT-FM radio, where he was well-known for spinning recordings from his enormous archive of old 78 rpm gramophones.
Soon after, he met drummer Tom Stephen and bassist Joe Rockman, with whom he established the Jeff Healey Band, a trio. The band’s first public performance took place in Toronto’s Birds Nest, which is upstairs from Chicago’s Diner on Queen Street West.
After being featured in Toronto’s NOW magazine, they began performing virtually every night at clubs, including Grossman’s Tavern and the renowned blues venue Albert’s Hall, where guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins first saw Jeff Healey perform.
The band released the album See the Light in 1988 after signing with Arista Records, and it debuted on the RPM Top 100 chart in 1989. The song “Hideaway,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and the popular single “Angel Eyes” were included.
The band was filming and recording for the Road House soundtrack, starring Patrick Swayze, concurrently with their recording of See the Light. Because his band was the house cover band for the bar in the film, Healey had multiple acting roles alongside Swayze.
The group was the 1990 Canadian Entertainer of the Year winner of the Juno Award. Between 1990 and 1994, Healey’s albums Hell to Pay and Feel This yielded ten charting singles in Canada, including a rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring acoustic guitar and backing vocals by George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.