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Blind guitarist Jeff Healey, 41; had hit album in 1988

Jeff Healey had a distinctive style of playing his guitar. Jeff Healey had a distinctive style of playing his guitar. (ap/file 2000)
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Associated Press / March 7, 2008

TORONTO - Blind rock and jazz musician Jeff Healey has died after a lifelong battle against cancer. He was 41.

Mr. Healey died Sunday in a Toronto hospital, said bandmate Colin Bray.

The Grammy-nominated musician rose to stardom as the leader of the Jeff Healey Band, a rock-oriented trio that gained international acclaim and platinum record sales with the 1988 album "See the Light."

The album included the hit single "Angel Eyes."

Mr. Healey had battled cancer since age 1, when a rare form of retinal cancer known as retinoblastoma claimed his eyesight.

Because of his blindness, Mr. Healey taught himself to play guitar by laying the instrument across his lap.

His unique playing style, combined with his blues-oriented vocals, earned him a reputation as a teenage musical prodigy. He shared stages with George Harrison, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Bray and fellow bandmate Gary Scriven remembered their frontman as a musician of rare abilities with a generous nature and wicked sense of humor.

Mr. Healey's true love was jazz, the genre that dominated his three most recent albums.

His love of jazz led him to host radio shows in Canada, where he spun long-forgotten numbers from his personal collection of more than 30,000 vinyl records.

He died just weeks before the release of his first rock album in eight years. "Mess of Blues" is slated for a North American release on April 22.

Mr. Healey leaves his wife, Christie, and two children.

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