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Tuesday, March 4, 2008


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.

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