Famous Deaf Musicians

I’m terribly amused by the USA-L News post suggesting Shawn Dale Barnett is the world’s only famous deaf musician. What about Evelyn Glennie? Barnett’s website claims that he is naturally-born 100 percent deaf, and Glennie lost her hearing by playing too much percussion, but they’re both successful deaf musicians. It’s impossible to tell if Barnett thinks of himself as Deaf (Glennie does not, she tries to hush away the fact that she’s deaf) because his entire site IS WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Argh.

32 thoughts on “Famous Deaf Musicians

  1. I am also terribly surprised, but not at this article. What I am surprised at is the immatureness of the previous writer. In contrary to what he or she said the article states that “Shawn Dale Barnett is the only famous deaf musician to ever have a top ten
    hit and to tour the world for over 21 years.” This is outragous that one would take stuff out of context like this! Next the Bible will say to “comitt adultery!” ARGH yourself.

  2. Thank you, Alex. I needed a good laugh tonight.

    I may be immature, but at least I can spell. I can also commit adultery (I’ve even done so). I also don’t give a rat’s ass about the Bible. How the hell did you get to my site, anyway?

    Sometimes I wonder about people.

  3. My name is Stephanie Ellison. I didi a search for deaf musicians. I came across your web site, and I wanted to contribute my 2 cents in that I’m also a deaf musician. I lost my hearing, maybe in the first year of my life and diagnosed at 6 years old. I played drums (my primary instrument) and bass
    guitar. I was in bands for about 9 years, and then it was time to buckle down for college. So, in the last 17 years, it’s been off-on. During those 9 years, I toured western Europe twice as a musician. I now have my first electronic drumset I’ve ever bought (Dad bought the other drum set when I was a kid), which I got about a month ago. I’m back into playing and rebuilding my playing skills.

    I also did the search because I’m looking for others like me. I have a hard time fitting into the deaf world because I’m usually considered by culturally deaf people to be a traitor, having sold them out to the hearing world. Yet, the hearing world isn’t able to communicate with me very well, even though I talk and lip-read very well. Anyway, it would be very helpful if you could pass along information about reaching others like me. I’m in the Austin, TX area.

  4. im a deaf rock singer based in Sheffield Uk. So please to see there are other deaf musicians around there need to be more of us and to get heard….. email me and let me know if you agree…
    im 33 write lyrics play basics on acoustic and play keyboards. Any other rock musicians??

  5. To be honest I never gave it alot of thought intil I ran across this web site. I am not deaf. I was raised by deaf parents. I am a musician who has played the Electric Bass on and off for 25 years. And I am still learning. I am studying with one of the best instructors you can ask for.
    I asked him his opinion on deaf musicians and he asked me a question that answered my question. His question to me was ” When you read a book do you need to hear?”. It all made sense to me coming from one of the best music site readers in the buisness.
    Did you know Beethoven was deaf? Music is only as good as the composers written Standard Notation. Expressing music by feeling and then translating it to notation is not about hearing it requires real devotion.

  6. Hello This is Declan Donnelly,37 Irish born living in Australia .Music has been my life.This site is very interesting .I never thought there s alot of deaf musicans around the world.Lucky am not the only one.Started playing the guitar at 7 years of age ,tin whistle at 12 and very experienced in the Irish Bodhran drum.Next to the guitar ,can play abit of the Mandolin.Every Sat afternoon i play my Bodhran in a pub with a group playing Irish,blues and bluesgrass.From the past two years i m falling in love with African drumming(Djembe and Sabar) and have been to senegal recently. You wouldnt believe that i met deaf senegalese african drummers and female dancers.They were fanastic.On the other hand of me there is a famous hugh Australia music festival held every year from Dec 27th to Jan 1st called the Woodford folk festival .It s a hour and half drive up north from Brisbane in Queensland.I have been performing there three times from the past six yearsand been in their local paper s front page.The atmosphere s great.Wondering if any of you deaf musicans are coming to Australia for the deaf olympic games held in melbourne 2005 ,It is worth to take a visit to Woodford.Also would like to chat email or meet any deaf musicans from all over the world.Am into Neil Young, Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd , Cold play, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson stuff. Email me at ddeclan@hotmail.com or sms me at (oo)+61404843785…Much love and peace to all you deafies …May the spirit of Beethoven ride on us ! DECLAN

  7. The one and only female deaf rock singer in the UK Faith Marsden has produced an excellent demo which really rocks….. already faith has had numerous radio interviews and had airplay with the Radio Sheffield Live.
    Still…. waiting to get signed on and find that special band if you are interested about the demo and have connections with the record industry email faith……on faith77me@yahoo.com

    A Demo of the “rocking-faith” had been sent to the white house President Bush and to Prime Minister Tony Blair

    ” I felt that my song SOULMAN would get the message through and that the words really stand out,,,,, its very emotional the hairs stand out on your neck to all those that listens”
    interview…………….with sheffieldlive
    ” I felt no one would take notice here so sent to the goverment!”
    and im still awaiting the rocking report from the white house and parliament!!

  8. It doesn’t look like this site is frequented so I will take a chance and hope that someone reads and responds….I am taking an ASL class. The culture and signing is very interesting. Our Professor is very skilled and we are trying very hard to follow as she signs and quizzes. It is difficult at times but she is very patient with us. I am enjoying the fact that I have picked up some very valuable signs but more important is the fact that I am learning another culture and their language. I am writing a paper on teaching music to deaf children. If anyone reads this and can give me some information on my subject, I would be greatly appreciative. Thank you and have a very good day!!!! ceb

  9. Hi iam a 16teen year old musician in a small town in tx iam also a student at marble falls high. Im writing a report for my ASL class about Deaf musicians but it looks like my only luck is with beethoven. If you are a Deaf musician out there plez make your slef known.
    thanks for this great web site and thanks for being who yall are.

  10. Hey everyone, what shaking? the vibrations from my drumset. I’m 24 yrs old been playing drums for 15 years and continuing. I live in small state called New Jersey. I’m only deaf drummer in New Jersey I hope ha ha. I am searching for any deaf musicians to create the first deaf band if it possible. I can play electric guitar and bass too but mostly drums of course. I used to be in a band called Fate To Fly for 1 year and half but we broke up it a long story. If any deaf or hard of hearing people are interesting to talk to me about music please email me I would love to hear from you guys and hopefully we meet up and jam make music and be well known to the world as soon as possible. I believe it is once a lifetime opportunity. I have two friends are deaf who are intresting to learn how to play music which is why I am teaching both of them how to play bass and drums because that the only things that they can feel the vibration. Here is the newspaper article from Asbury Park Press in New Jersey about me. Doable: They march to a different drummer

    Published in the Asbury Park Press 2/25/04
    Rob Minervino, searching for a new drummer for his band, was intrigued when a friend of a friend online recommended Chris Wydock, who is deaf. “I thought they meant ‘def,’ as in really good,” Minervino said.

    It turned out not to be a misspelling; Wydock is deaf and, as Minervino discovered, also def. “At first I was a little iffy about it, until I heard him play. He was so much better than any drummer who could hear.”

    Wydock joined Fate To Fly a year ago, and the group of area musicians, all in their 20s, have been playing popular Shore venues. So far this year they’ve been booked at the Beachcomber in Seaside Heights, Chubby’s in Red Bank and The Saint in Asbury Park. On March 14 they’ll perform at the Stone Pony in Asbury.

    Guitarist Minervino and bassist Mike Archibald, both from Lacey, formed the band in 2001. When their drummer and vocalist left for college, they recruited Wydock, of Toms River, and Neptune resident Travis Johnson, who writes the songs. Their music is “heavy rock,” Minervino said, and mostly originals.

    “We ‘cover’ one song, Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ because Chris already knew it.” Wydock memorizes the music and Minervino cues him in to changes or pauses with a “look.” Another onstage accommodation is sign language; Wydock taught the others how to sign the names of the songs.

    His lip-reading skills also help. But the music, says Wydock, who hears only low frequencies and is profoundly deaf to high-pitch sounds, is all about the vibrations.

    “I can feel it through me, and my feet, too. On a solid floor it is hard to feel; only when I am onstage or in a house with wood floors can I feel it right off the bat.”

    Bacterial meningitis left him deaf soon after his first birthday; he began drumming when he was 10.

    “It all started when I banged on those plastic upside-down buckets and garbage cans with heavy plastic dog toy bones as my drum sticks. I hit something that I could feel because the impact was so great that it sent some sound waves to me.”

    When a drummer played at a party in his father’s house, “I felt those drum beats and I was hooked ever since. I like to feel music because I am missing a lot of the fun in hearing nature’s music.”

    His garbage can and bucket repertoire resembled the off-Broadway show “Stomp,” and his grandmother, annoyed by the constant banging and clanking in her garage, bought him a set of drums.

    Fate To Fly is a rock band, but Wydock’s range of musical styles includes blues, jazz, heavy metal and even marching band tunes. He also enjoys native American and Jamaican rhythms, which he calls “very cooperative.”

    “I love listening to Ozzy Osbourne music; it has a lot of drumming,” he said, and was influenced by Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Stone Temple Pilot. But his personal role model is Shawn Dale Barnett, who Wydock met during Great Adventure’s Deaf Awareness Day in 2002. Barnett died last year. “If there are no other deaf drummers taking his place, I would love to follow his footsteps.”

    Meanwhile, Fate To Fly band mates are learning more than sign language from Wydock. According to the group’s Web site, the dedicated drummer is fueling their fire to perform and record.

    Last week they completed a CD, “Watching The World Spin,” on an independent label.

    Wydock’s goal is “to let people know that deaf people can do anything they can do.”

    Linda Walls is a parent and grandparent of people with disabilities ranging from deafness and Tourette’s syndrome to cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Her column appears in Wednesday’s Jersey life Accent on Food section. Write to her at the Asbury Park Press, 3601 Highway 66, Neptune, NJ 07754, or e-mail doable@monmouth.com or call her at (732) 449-0696.

  11. I just wanted to mention that the Deaf Drummer I played with
    Shawn Dale Barnett, who played with Alice in Chains,
    died today at 8:08 this morning.
    I’ve been crying for awhle now since Shawn and I became great buddies
    touring and on the road.
    Shawn was very sick, as some of you may know. He had brain cancer,stomach cancer,liver cancer and bone cancer. It was ravaging his body…
    He had tumors on his face, and a tumor in his shoulder that actually broke his collar bone.
    Face it, he was in serious pain.
    They had him on 1″ morphine patches, and gradually the patches had to be increased in size. Shawn died with his folks at his side in his home in Leavenworth,Kansas.
    The last time he came to Orlando to play at the Lost and Found he was really in serious pain but didn’t let anyone know,just me.
    As some of you know besides playing with Alice in Chains briefly and
    living with Layne Staley, he opened for Guns and Roses,Poison,Reo Speedwagon,Warrant,Faster Pussycat,Morris Day and the Time,Jimmy Page with The Black Crowes…and I don’t know who else…

    He had a rough life, Shawn did…
    Being beaten up by L.A. gang members,stabbed in the neck, and even shot in the leg, all because he waS deaf and wanted to play Rock and Roll.Thank goodnes I was able to record a 3 song demo CD with Shawn at Ben Shader’s CRUSH studios before he passed away.His girlfriend is sending me the cover she made for the CD soon.I don’t know what else to say except I’ll miss you Shawn,my brother, and thanks for allowing me to play guitar with you…

    I’ll never forget you,man!


    The Alien Blues Dude http://cazzylove.hippy.com/
    (If you want to send a message for Shawn’s family
    just email me at:

  12. This is a from a website a fan had created for Shawn Dale Barnett…


    While attending Kansas School for the Deaf, he was told that being deaf would keep him from success in the music business. There he was beaten regularly by older classmates who didn’t believe his claim that he was able to play the drums. He eventually proved them wrong and won $20 in the bargain. After he graduated from K.S.D., he pursued his dream, was one of the first professional deaf drummers, and eventually became the first deaf man to have a top hit on MTV.

    He has also done much to communicate his sounds directly to hearing-impaired fans. His one-man show presents his “deaf music” that features a new type of rhythm, drum vibrations, speeds of time and visual effects like flashing lights, fog machines, and balloons. A lot of listeners, including other deaf people, find it hard to believe he plays and writes so well. The way he puts it is: “I go by just feeling the vibrations in one way or another.”

    Today Shawn Dale Barnett participates in deaf-related events and he teaches music in various schools for the deaf, helping the students understand vibrations and rhythm. He talks with them about his career experiences, his family and lifestyle, and learning to live in a hearing world. He continues to provide an appreciation of music to the deaf community.

    Barnett was born totally deaf in 1963 and spent his early years in Leavenworth, Kansas. At the age of six months, several tumors were removed from his left arm. Part of the damage was permanent, so the arm retained some weakness. It did not, however, hinder his ability to grasp a drumstick. Very early in Barnett’s life, it became obvious that he could sense musical sounds. When he was five, he started to play a drum. His family was amazed at his ability to “keep time.” As he put it, “I had a natural rhythm.”

    One of Barnett’s friends was a future musical idol: Melissa Etheridge. The two of them frequently talked about their destiny in show business and how they “dreamed of making it big.”

    While he was attending Kansas School for the Deaf at Olathe, Barnett was discouraged from pursuing his dreams in music. When he tried to tell classmates about his drumming, he was ridiculed and physically beaten. Just before his graduation in 1981, he was able to convince them. At a local bar called “Clown,” Barnett bet some K.S.D. students $20 that he could play the drums with the house band. The leader agreed to let Barnett “sit in,” and he “rocked the house!” He walked away with $20 and the strong belief that he could make a living playing the drums. From that time on, he considered himself a “professional.”

    Having been rejected by his peers, Barnett entered the hearing world never mentioning his deafness unless asked directly. His life has had its ups and downs, its triumphs and its tragedies. Barnett puts it this way: “Being a deaf man in the rock music industry isn’t easy.” However, he proceeded to ” …shatter myths about deaf musicians …”

    Shortly after his K.S.D. graduation, Barnett lost his one-year-old daughter from S.I.D. (Sudden Infant Death) Syndrome. This incident was later the inspiration for “My Baby, My Child,” one of the songs he has written. (He composes lyrics.)

    A trip to Hollywood in 1983 with his band (including his brother Steven Todd Barnett) began a six-month period of “living on the streets” and “growing up fast.” Then he “hooked up” with the band that evolved into “Alice-in-Chains” and went on tour,living with the late Layne Staley and opening for such groups as “REO Speedwagon,” “Skid Row,” “Warrant,” “White Lion,” “Poison,” “Guns and Roses,”Jimmy Page with The Black Crowes,” “Faster Pussycat,” and “L A Guns.”

    In 1987 Barnett wrote a song, “Leave the Light On,” which was recorded by Belinda Carlisle. It eventually climbed to the Number 7 spot on “Billboard’s Top Ten” list.

    Barnett returned to Kansas and established his own business: S.D.B. Entertainment. This year he released his first five-song EP: “Silents in Black N’ White (Music from the Soul of A Deaf Man).” His brother took part also, playing guitar and providing vocals. Contained in this EP were three drum solos plus the following songs written by Barnett “Bury Me in the Sand” (about Barnett’s loneliness at school); and “Rosemary’s Garden” (about Rosemary Kennedy, the mentally retarded sister of President John Kennedy).

    According to Barnett, he wrote the latter song after reading an article about the “forgotten” Kennedy. Trying to imagine her in the White House Rose Garden, he pictured her mentally as ” .. a lonely figure roaming … in a white dress …” Barnett felt a connection to Miss Kennedy because ” … there is … a stigma that being deaf is like being retarded …” This song was also released as a single and sold 25,000 copies on the Internet.

    Barnett has performed in all 50 states and in five foreign countries.

    At one time or another, Barnett has played various kinds of music: rock; country; pop; blues; classical; rap; alternative. He has developed sounds that have been labeled “deaf music.” This is performed with drums only, along with visual effects.

    Over the past four years Barnett has concentrated on his own culture, ” … reconnecting with the deaf community … ” Last year he presented his one-man show to more than 200,000 people, was featured in newspaper stories, and appeared on television programs for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

    Barnett is available to perform at events to attended by deaf music fans where he plays and provides free balloons, loudspeakers, smoke, flashing lights, and “pyros” (flash pots and firecrackers)

    The depth of Barnett’s feeling about his music is reflected in these personal statements: “The drummer is the keeper of the rhythm of society’s hearts!” As encouragement to young deaf performers, he said: “We can’t hear what the critics are saying, anyway!”

    Shawn recently had begun playing with Orlando guitarist, Cazzy Love / The Alien Blues Dude and they recorded a three song demo CD at CRUSH STUDIOS in Orlando, Shawn’s last recorded project,a month before he died.

    NOTE: Sadly, Shawn Dale Barnett passed away on February 23rd,2003 after a painful battle with cancer.

    You can visit Shawn Dale Barnett’s web site at: http://shawndalebarnett.50megs.com/

    (CazzyNote: Don’t be too amused by Shawn’s fame…he was an amazing guy!)


    The Alien Blues Dude
    (Former guitar player
    with the late Shawn Dale Barnett)

  13. Hey, This is for Stephanie, click on my web link, and e-mail me, I am in Ottawa, Canada, I am totally deaf and play guitar, People say I am quite good at it actually, Tonight for the first time ever i decided to see what was on the internet about deaf musicians, thought I was the only one on earth, LOL, guess not, would love to talk to you through e-mail….Take care to all,

  14. hey, thanks for having a useful site up. i’m not deaf, or a musician (anymore; i do want to get back into it though). actually, i was hurt at work and missed a lot of class because of the muscle relaxant they had me on. i’m only taking sign language as part of my general education, but i really enjoy it. i needed the class to be eligible to wrestle. the teacher is really cool, and is having me write a 5-7 page essay on my choice of a deaf topic. music is my favorite thing in the world, so naturally i researched this. my site has nothing to do with deafness, just videos and pictures from my camera. just wanted to say thanks once again for helping with my research. i doubt anyone will look this over and get back to me within the next 2 days, but if you do, i’m looking for more sites on deaf musicians of any kind to help with my paper. thanks a lot- aaron

  15. I am doing research for a book I am writing on a deaf musician. If anyone has any iformation I might be able to use, please contact me.

  16. O.K. now,people…
    Cazzy here checking out all the comments about the late Shawn Dale Barnett, the deaf drummer I played guitar with.
    Now about the CAPITAL LETTERS…
    Other people made the website for Shawn so the capitals and all that are entirely none of his doing. I know it sounds like Shawn was writing it but actually others did the website for him.

    And about the famous part…

    I would say that if you played drums with Alice in Chains, and wrote a song for Belinda Carlilse of the Go-Go’s,which became the only top ten hit ever on MTV by a deaf person, I would say that’s pretty well known.
    Now leave Shawn alone, will ya?
    He’s dead!

    (P.S. The song he wrote for Belinda was “Leave the Light On” which is on the Runaway Horses album.)Please don’t be mad.

    Thank You,

    The Alien Blues Dude

    Shawn’s last guitarist…

  17. Hello everyone, I am a hard of hearing musician, bordering on the deaf side. I feel like Stephanie – the Deaf culture thinks of me as a traitor and I have some difficulty with the hearing. It’s so nice to see that there are others like me doing the same thing, I would love to hear from any of you deaf musicians. Please visit my website and also email me. I would LOVE to hear from you.
    Take care,

  18. Just wanted to tell everyone that my old website…on hippy.com is no longer…
    Check the myspace page now…

    If you can hear…
    then check out the music…
    If you cannot….you can still check out some of the pics I have of Shawn Dale Barnett,,,and you can also crank up the three songs that i did with him and check out the vibrations just like Shawn used to always do when we played gigs…

    (Three songs I did with SDB are:

    1. Drifting Like Smoke
    2. Blues jam of The Hardened Heart
    3. Deaf Music

    They are in the Soundclick player a little bit down the page.

    (He amped his drums thru 2,000 Watts!)
    Of course I told him….
    “If you’re drumming thru 2,000 watts…then i want my guitar to be 2,000 watts too!

    He agreed…
    Of course he couldn’t hear me but he would read my lips…


    { o}=====>

    The Alien Bluez Dude

  19. Hello,
    Hoping to reach Stephanie or “Feel the Groove” or the contributor who is teaching his deaf friends bass…
    I’m hearing and teaching drumming, rhythm and finger cymbals to deaf students.
    One of the students expressed interest in the guitar and I was able to acquire an electric bass for the student, but I don’t know how to play it myself.
    Will you please tell me how to help this student learn to play the bass?
    Also, I’m hoping that by mid- or end of the year that this student will be able to play with us as we drum.
    THANK YOU for sharing and reading.

  20. Hello, I am looking who desire to be rock deaf band. I am hard of hearing perosn. I did play the lead and bass guitar for a long time as 30 years or so. I was realized that some deaf musician have already been to play band together since. I just research about the deaf musician and their information. That what called computer tech people, lol, Well, let help us to proven them that we can do it as hearing band do. I will try to help you to work it out together and be success someday. my email is kmyshrall@hotmail.com Thank you, hard rock…forever.

  21. i find it amazing how ppl with disabilities are have the most wonderful abilities. yup

  22. I am loosing my hearing and use a hearing aid. I am a musician/artist I cant stop playing and never will. I dont care if im famous. I care about humanity. about romance. about living dreams and dreaming live. It sucks going deaf when your used to hearing all your life but there is no stopping passion what ever it may be for. Keeping the faith in ones self is all important. spacedbird@yahoo.com

  23. I had the opportunity to spend part of a summer with Shawn. I was doing live stunts with a group of notable other stuntmen in 2000 and since Shawn was a fan of stunts, he came by and befriended everyone. He got a kick out of being close to the stunts and we soon became fans of his after watching him perform.

    We hung out at Bob Peets house after doing our shows, most notably Doug Danger’s motorcycle jump over an L-1011, wingtip to wingtip in May of 2000. I had several opportunites just to sit and talk to Shawn about everything under the sun. Not once did he complain about his life nor did he lead on about his cancer. I don’t know if he had it then but again, he never complained about anything regarding his personal life. He did have a few things to say about the entertainment industry but it was no different than what any of us had to say.

    Shawn could be a handful when he drank (that boy was huge) and he liked to have fun. If you were looking at him from the outside you would never figure he was deaf – that never slowed him down. He could read lips as fast as you could talk and he did a good job of communicating in our hearing world. We used to harass him by covering our mouths when we talked and he would respond by grabbing the nearest one of us and threaten him with bodily harm, jokingly of course.

    When that part of the day comes that you are feeling sorry for yourself, consider Shawn’s life and what he accomplished in spite of the cards he was dealt. Shawn was an inspiration.

  24. Thank you Joe….
    i’m sure that Shawn would have been very pleased to hear those kind words…
    Yes, Shawn was a big bear, which is also why he could play those drums so damn loud….

    I really dug touring and being on the road with him…
    and I was proud that he asked me to be his guitarist. I never thought I would be his last guitarist.

    Peace alwayz…and stay in the muzic!

    The Alien Bluez Dude

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  26. What a great thread — please add me and my trumpet to the Deaf-musician list! Thing is, my ears are opposite to most hearing loss because I hear higher sounds well, but not low ones. So, you won’t see me playing a tuba anytime soon.
    One correction — Dame Glennie had hearing loss *before* she became a percussionist! She played woodwinds first, then changed to drums later on.
    Wish I could have known Shawn, sounds like he was quite a guy. How many fans of “Beethoven’s Nightmare” here, by the way?
    And yes, ASL is a great language. Why? Read my “met Deaf wow” novel to find out! (A Handful of Spells at Amazon & goodreads & savvypress)

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