Hearing a song can instantly brighten your day and move you emotionally. It isn’t as often that the story of a musician’s rise to stardom can inspire those same feelings.

There are a lot of inspirational musicians who overcame the odds to do what they love. We all take inspiration from them and for some it inspired us to pursue a career in music. Their stories can provide us with the motivation we need to get the breakthrough we might need at this moment in time. Just when you don’t think you can do anything or be anything, it’s stories like these that remind us we can.

When what you love defines you, you will find a way to do what you love.


Beethoven began to lose his hearing around 1801. He suffered a severe form of tinnitus, that made it hard for him to appreciate music. The cause was unknown.

At the end of the premiere of Beethoven’s symphony No. 9, the audience applauded him, some even waved handkerchiefs. As the audience applauded Beethoven was still conducting. At this point in his life his hearing loss had become acute.

Because of that, Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause. The whole audience gave him a standing ovation five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the appreciation.

With the odds against him, his mental health fragile he played his music inside. You might be going through some things, the odds may be stacked against you. Don’t give up!

Django Reinhardt

When you hear Django Reinhardt play the guitar, it’s easy to forget that he had only two good fingers on his left hand. When he was 18 years old he was badly burned in a fire. He was at home with his wife, Bella, in their caravan on the edge of Paris. To make a little money, Bella had been making artificial flowers out of paper and celluloid. When Django accidently knocked over a candle, the material from the flowers ignited and the trailer was quickly engulfed in flames.They both survived, but Django would spend the next 18 months recovering from his injuries. When a doctor expressed the need to amputate his right leg, Reinhardt left the hospital and moved into a nursing home, where he eventually recovered. The two smallest fingers on his left hand were paralyzed. At that point you wouldn’t blame him if he had given up, but Reinhardt overcame the limitation by inventing his own method of playing. With his two good fingers he moved rapidly up and down the guitar neck while making very limited use of his two paralysed fingers. He rose above his disability to create one of the most distinctive instrumental styles in 20th century music.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar overcame a stutter as a child by focusing on perfecting his rap skills. The critically-acclaimed “Poetic Justice” hitmaker reveals he used to struggle with his speech until he learned how to channel his thoughts and feelings into song. His interest in writing poetry and lyrics, began in seventh grade. His English teacher introduced him to the world of rhymes and metaphors, and he was immediately hooked.

“You could put all your feelings down on a sheet of paper, and they’d make sense to you,” he says. “I liked that.”

Lamar grew up with a stutter. Rather than let his stammer stop his dream he allowed the setback to fuel his musical career.

“As a kid, I used to stutter,” he says. “I think that’s why I put my energy into making music. That’s how I get my thoughts out, instead of being crazy all the time.”

Lamar’s passion and perseverance now inspire lovers of hip hop but also the stuttering community.

Rick Allen

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen at the age of 21, while he was driving he made a reckless turn in his car and lost his left arm in the accident. This was followed by a deep depression because he thought he wouldn’t be able to drum for Def Leppard any longer. At some point he stopped focusing on what he lost and started looking for solutions. There was nothing in the market he could use to continue his passion. Rick Allen didn’t allow the story to end there. He and lead singer Joe Elliot began to design a drumset that he could play with only one arm. The kit would become not only a centre piece for Def Leppard, but an innovation for other drummers around the world who were missing limbs. After his innovative new drumkit was finished, Def Leppard went on to be one of the best selling bands of the 80s.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder was born six weeks early and was blind at birth. Stevie made music his life, and he learned how to play the piano, the drums, and the bass. He was able to communicate what he saw in his mind through his music. He has more than 30 Top 10 hits to his name as well as numerous Grammy awards. He became a success despite the setbacks he faced in his life.

Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman the great violinist contracted polio when he was 4 years old, and he has used crutches ever since. In one interview he said, “I can’t walk very well, but I’m not onstage to do walking, I’m on the stage to play.” This statement allows us to see into the mind of great.

We have so many examples of musicians who have inspired us despite the issues that they were dealt, either circumstantial or health related. They had to develop a positive never quit attitude and believe in their dream even though it might of seemed a fruitless pursuit. Despite the odds they show us what is possible.

Always remember that if these people can overcome the odds, so can you. Don’t give up!

“Fight one more round. When your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the centre of the ring, fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round – remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.” ― James Corbett

Basil Reynolds

Coaching Consultant

Finding the Music Inside