Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey has died in Toronto Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 41.
The news was released on his website, jeffhealey.com. Here's a statement from his site.
Following a lengthy struggle with cancer,
Healey passes away on the eve of the
release of a new blues rock album
Update: Canwest News Service's obituary of Mr. Healey (9:19 p.m. ET)
Canwest News Service
Blind guitar wizard Jeff Healey of Toronto died Sunday of cancer. He was 41.
Norman Jeffrey Healey was one of Canada's premier blues and jazz musicians who is perhaps best known for his 1988 album See The Light, which included the hit single Angel Eyes. He was also nominated for a Grammy for the song Hideaway and in 1990, was awarded a Juno in the Entertainer of the Year category.
Other Healey hits have included How Long Can a Man Be Strong and a cover of The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Healey lost his vision as a baby to a rare form of retinal cancer and he battled the disease throughout this life. His website said Sunday that he died with his wife, Cristie, at his bedside in Toronto's St. Joseph's Hospital.
As a toddler, Healey picked up a guitar and, setting it on his knees, developed a distinct sound and playing style.
By the time he was a teenager, Healey had formed a four-piece band called the Blue Direction and was playing in clubs throughout the Toronto area. His best known work came when he formed the Jeff Healey Band several years later with bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen.
The Jeff Healey Band was a sellout act across Canada and sold over a million albums in the U.S. market.
During the course of his musical career, he shared the stage with such music titans as Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Harrison and B.B. King.
But Healey's passion was not always in rock music and later in his career branched into jazz, especially from the golden years of the genre in the 1920s and '30s. He released several jazz CDs and had a collection of some 25,000 78 rpm jazz records.
Until recently, he had a show on a Toronto jazz station CJRT-FM.
At the time of his death, Healey was about to unveil his first rock/blues CD_in eight years. Mess of Blues is scheduled to be released in Europe in March and in Canada on April 22.
Healey had a long fight with cancer. In 2007, he underwent surgery to remove cancerous growths from his lungs. He had earlier had two sarcomas removed from his legs.
Healey is survived by his wife and two children, 13-year-old Rachel and three-year-old Derek. Other survivors include his father Bud and stepmother Rose, and two sisters, Laura and Linda.
As of Sunday night, funeral and memorial arrangements had not been announced.
More on Mr. Healey from his site
Jeff Healey, arguably one of the most distinctive guitar players of our time, died today (Sunday March 2) in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Toronto. He was 41, and leaves his wife, Cristie, daughter Rachel (13) and son Derek (three), as well as his father and step-mother, Bud and Rose Healey, and sisters Laura and Linda.
Funeral and memorial arrangements are pending.
Robbed of his sight as a baby due to a rare form of cancer, retino blastoma, and he started to play guitar when he was three, holding the instrument unconventionally across his lap. He formed his first band at 17, but soon formed a trio which was named the Jeff Healey Band.
After his appearance in the movie Road House, he was signed to Arista records, and in 1988 released the Grammy-nominated album See the Light, which included a major hit single, Angel Eyes. He earned a Juno Award in 1990 as Entertainer of the Year.
On his new album:
At the time of his death he was about to see the release of his first rock/blues album in eight years, Mess of Blues, which is being released in Europe on March 20, and in Canada and the U.S. on April 22. The album was the result of a joint agreement between the German label, Ruf Records, and Stony Plain, the independent Edmonton-based label that has released his three jazz CDs.
Mess of Blues was recorded in studios in Toronto, with two cuts recorded at the Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse in Toronto and two at a concert in London England. The backup group on the upcoming CD — the Healey’s House Band — played with him regularly at the downtown Roadhouse, and at a previous club bearing his name in the Queen-Bathurst area.
On his illness:
Early last year, Healey underwent surgery to remove cancerous tissue from his legs, and later from both lungs; aggressive radiation treatments and chemotherapy, however, failed to halt the spread of the disease.
Despite his battle with cancer, he undertook frequent tours across Canada with both his blues-based band and his jazz group; he was set for a major tour in Germany and the U.K. and was to be a guest on the BBC’s famed Jools Holland Show in April.