Saturday, September 21, 2013

Out Of Darkness – The Jeff Healey Story by Cindy Watson, reviewed by Maria Duncalf-Barber

Dundurn Press, 144 pages, paperback $19.99, e-book $8.99 available here

Canadian baby boomers know Jeff Healey from his glory days as a pop rock star with the Jeff Healey Band. Fewer know that this legendary blues and jazz guitarist was given up for adoption at birth, that he was diagnosed with cancer and lost both his eyes before his first birthday, lost his adoptive mother to cancer, and had a recurrence of his own cancer later in life.

As a mother of three herself, it was a natural choice for author Cindy Watson to write the book for young adults. “Jeff Healey believed in following his dreams and believing in himself,” says Watson. “What better message for a young adult market? Believe in yourself. Be passionate about whatever you choose to do. Don’t take life for granted. Embrace it. Live it large. Love. Laugh.”

Author Cindy Watson
Watson knew it was the first hand accounts that would make the book interesting. Her husband had grown up with Jeff and his family, so that gave her a good start. She went on to interview a network of people who played pivotal roles in Healey’s life, starting with his family, friends, old school mates, band mates, CNIB contacts, musicians and managers.

It was those personal accounts that gave Healey form and substance on the pages. Unfortunately she was unable to interview Healey himself, who died in 2008

The book gives a comprehensive account of Healey’s childhood. It also gives a snapshot how the music business worked two decades ago. As a songwriter Healey would mail a sealed copy of his original lyrics to himself, so the postmark could prove he had written the song at that date which was saved in the envelope.

She notes that Jeff Healey never wanted to be remembered as a blind musician, but rather a great one, this book is the first biography of the talented musician. In short he was a musical genius who could play by ear. After listening to one playing of a song he could play it back with an eerie accuracy.

He taught himself to play guitar, piano, drums, trumpet and trombone besides writing hit songs and singing with his “liquid gold voice.” He rose to fame in the 1980s and 90s with a hit single “Angel Eyes” and being featured on the soundtrack and appearing in the Patrick Swayze movie Road House.

After the movie was released his band was on all the late night TV talk shows. International nominations and awards were offered as the band received TV and radio airplay.

Out Of Darkness works on many levels especially the educational component, which offers interaction for the solo reader or as a class project. Watson has done a great deal of research and asks the reader to think outside the box like Healey did, to take risks and to not give up on your dreams. Watson is excited about the idea of getting the book introduced to school boards across the country.

For information about submitting to Dundurn Press, see here.

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Maria Duncalf-Barber has written everything from short stories to poetry, from book reviews to columns on personal growth. This is her first piece for Quick Brown Fox.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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