Jeff Healey: 1966-2008

It was a rare type of eye cancer that robbed guitarist Jeff Healey of his eyesight when he was only one year old, and a cancer that spread to his lungs would eventually take his life on March 2, but the prodigiously talented blues and jazz guitarist managed to fit an impressive amount into his 41 years of life.

Healey was best known to film fans as the house band leader in the Patrick Swayze cult favorite Road House (1989), but the Toronto native found considerable success with the resulting label contract and his hit single "Angel Eyes." He released a popular cover of "My Guitar Gently Weeps," played alongside the likes of George Harrison, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King, and even nabbed a Grammy nomination for the song "Hideaway," before returning eventually to his first love: vintage jazz. He released several albums on this theme, and in addition to playing a weekly jam session in Toronto, he occasionally hosted the CBC show My Kinda Jazz, which allowed him to showcase his collection of 30,000-plus jazz records. A father of two, Healey was readying the release of Mess of Blues, his first rock-blues album in eight years. As B.B. King told EW, "Jeff’s passing is a tragic loss to the world of blues. His life was cut short. He was courageous throughout his battle with cancer, and his special talent will be greatly missed."

Comments (16 total) Add your comment
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  • bootsycolumbia

    Thank you for the tribute to Jeff Healey. His CBC program was fantastic and introduced me to a lot of blues artists I’d otherwise never have gotten to know. He was a truly talented man who was taken from us far too soon. Rest in peace, Jeff.

  • Christina

    “Angel Eyes” is one of my favorite songs. It’s sad day for Canadian music

  • tim

    During my tenure in rock radio, I had the opportunity to meet Jeff backstage in Portland during his “See the Light” tour.
    I walked away feeling lucky to have met such a kind person. Five minutes of my life I’ll never forget.
    I know somewhere there’s a soul above brimming with joy and finally seeing the light himself; removed from a body blinded by disease.

  • Molly

    Sadly my only exposure to Jeff Healey was from “Roadhouse,” but his music was amazing in that movie. So sad to hear of his passing.

  • PDub

    my dad had my listening to jeff in his angel eyes days. i always loved his music, and loved him in roadhouse. though i haven’t followed his recent career, it’s still sad to hear of his passing.

  • wintersux

    Very sad. I’ve enjoyed his music over the years.

  • Winona

    Sadly, I am not familiar with much of his catalog beyond “Angel Eyes”, and was unaware of the jazz direction of his music… I will definitely check it out. A sad day for music… :-(

  • AL

    All you have to do is watch a you tube video of him playing his guitar so earnestly and soulfully to see the talent that will be missed. Although I admit I only knew him for Angel Eyes (love that song), watching a video of him doing that yesterday upon hearing of his death had me burst (unexpectedly) into tears.

  • kath

    Thanks for posting this, I am glad he wasn’t forgotten by EW.

  • RedAngel

    Growing up in Canada, his music was a big part of my childhood. I’ll miss hearing him on the CBC…R.I.P., Jeff :(

  • Lynny

    Angel Eyes is one of the most lovely songs I’ve ever heard. I feel sad.

  • KateDFW

    Heartbreaking! I am a big fan of his music and will continue to be one. Everytime I hear Angel Eyes it brings a smile to my face. RIP Jeff and thank you for years of wonderful music!

  • Stephanie T.

    He was very cool in Road House and Angel Eyes was such a moving song. RIP, Jeff.

  • pai

    I’ve been heartsick over this news for days. Jeff was a great guitarist and just seemed like a truly wonderful person. My condolences to all who knew him and I hope he’s jamming his heart out somewhere…

  • fromtoronto

    He was not only a very talented musician but from his interviews just seemed like a downright good, kind person with a genteel heart. He will definitely be missed.

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