Harmonica player Paul Gillies is an extraordinary individual. He has walked up Mount Vesuvius on crutches, jet power boated in New Zealand, bungee jumped 300 feet over the River Thames, and tandem freefall parachuted from 10,000 feet. These physical feats would have taxed the average person, but Paul did them while experiencing progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that has robbed him of his sight in one eye, and will eventually claim his life.
Paul began to play blues harmonica as a teenager, and continued until his MS progressed to the point that playing became exhausting. No matter how hard he tried to move his fingers, they remained gnarled up into a fist. The paralysis soon spread into his forearm but stopped at his elbow, leaving his bicep and shoulder weak, but still useable. Even the easiest things became difficult. Soon he became unable to hold onto his heavy Green Bullet harp microphone, and reluctantly packed away his harps. Although he missed playing, he resigned himself to the fact that he could never play again, and would have to make do with his musical memories.
In David King's intriguing interview, Gillies describes how he overcame the limitations of his illness to continue playing the music he loves.
Check out Paul Gillies: More Rhythm than Stephen Hawking at AAJ today!