Home Music Industry News Does Today’s Urban Industry Shun Handicapped Talent?

Does Today’s Urban Industry Shun Handicapped Talent?



(pictured Johnnie Wilder Jr. from Heatwave Crippled after a major car crash. Teddy Pendergrass, crippled after a car crash and scandal. Singer Houston, gouged his own eye out. Luther Vandross, crippled after a stroke. Would his career ever have resumed had he lived? Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder both blind both had/have prosperous careers and have crossed over)

Have you noticed there has not been a handicapped singer or rapper in decades in the urban industry? If ignorance is a handicap, then the industry has CERTAINLY done it’s fair share of finding talent (laugh). Seriously, were we in a better position 40 years ago to give Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles opportunities but today we avoid it? There have been singers and rappers who ended up handicapped via an accident, shooting or misfortune and their careers were over after that. That included Teddy Pendergrass, for the most part, the late Johnnie Wilder Jr from Heatwave, singer Houston and others.  In the 24 years I have worked in the industry, I don’t ever recall seeing anyone in radio or records that was/is handicapped. If handicapped people are invisible to society they are non-existent to the urban music industry. Perhaps it’s not politically correct to call someone “handicapped” today as it indicates ‘a lack of’ or ‘an inability.’ I grew up with a deaf boy named Dwayne and his mother absolutely refused to allow him to be treated any differently than the other kids. He couldn’t talk and it was hilarious seeing the ghetto kids trying to communicate with him. They tried to emulate his grunts and sounds as if he could understand that (laugh). He adapted very well and he had a great mother who was, as usual, a single mother.  We don’t readily want to admit it but there is a level of discrimination in society against handicapped people. Industry people have been conditioned not to see handicapped people as sexy or marketable but I’m sure there has been a crippled person, for example,  who had an amazing voice out there who was invisible because he or she never thought they would have a chance. In today’s american idol society where the usual industry rules and standards have been broken, it would seem feasable if a label or a station took a chance on a handicapped singer or announcer… they might be pleasantly surprised at the result.

CEO of RF Focus, Radio and Music Industry Veteran. Radio DJ, Programmer, Musician and Voice Talent. Graduated from Performing Arts in Buffalo, N.Y. and worked at the legendary KKBT (92.3 The Beat) during its nationwide heyday in the early 90s. Also worked for Stevie Wonder at KJLH.


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