8 Famous Musicians With Dyslexia

Dyslexia interferes with language learning abilities. The shape of letters and words appears distorted to people who suffer from dyslexia. However, with grit and a deep interest in giving life a meaningful shape, such individuals have succeeded in several fields. A number of scientists, painters, entrepreneurs, etc. found it difficult to keep up with the learning pace of their peers in school life. They could not read or write but had a tremendous ability to think creatively and innovatively. In this post, we talk about notable personalities who made it big as musicians but have dyslexia.

Can dyslexics learn music?

Dyslexia is a neurobiological[1] condition where the brain’s portion that processes the language is adversely affected. It leads to the poor ability to learn to read and write. Just like language has letters which are symbols, musical notes are nothing but symbols only. So, it does come as a surprising fact that dyslexics learn music despite not being able to decode syllabic presentations of notes. The secret of the success of dyslexics lies in the fact that they employ the right hemisphere predominantly for processing information, the same part which processes tones or prosody. Thus, they can hit the high notes or achieve a better pitch as a singer by employing the brain’s plasticity while making music.

How dyslexics take music lessons

Dyslexics do show exceptional creativity and inclination towards music. The onus lies on the teacher how they modify the music lessons to complement the student’s learning style. Some of the techniques used to teach music to dyslexics are:

  • Representing musical notes with the animal names. For example, C represented by cow or cat, etc.
  • Teaching easy skills first and then building up the complex skills
  • Using multi-sensory approach such as counting heart beat and pulse rate to understand rhythm. Or, using colored overlays on notes to make them visually distinct
  • Associating rhythm with a movement (Dalcroze approach), Use of hand signs (Kodály method) and Imitation and Repetitions (Suzuki method) are some approaches used for teaching music. By trials and tests, the teacher may learn what works for the student.

Dyslexia could not stop people from following their hearts and passion. Music proved a healer as well as a source of fame for some dyslexics. Taking a clue from the success achieved in success, Music has become a therapy to offer to dyslexics to learn and attain phonological awareness. Some of the notable musicians who have dyslexia are:

1. Cher

Cher was diagnosed with Dyslexia in her thirties. She fared very badly in language classes in her school time but was quite a good performer in other subjects. Struggling with Dyslexia, she dropped out of school and turned her attention to acting and singing. She learned most of her music by listening. Her notable songs include ‘Believe’, ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, etc. The exemplary singer shares that she was a very slow reader, which made learning difficult for her.

2. Geoff Barrow

Geoff Barrow is an English musician. He had to struggle with a dysfunctional family and also dyslexia from an early age. He found solace in mixing beats and started his musical career as DJ. He shares in an interview that by cutting albums and making music, he worked his way around dyslexia and other psychological issues like anxiety, stress, etc.

3. Mick Fleetwood

Mick represents the Rock Music of the 60s and 70s. ‘Rumor’, ‘The Chain’, ‘These Strange Times’ are some of the works that earned his band massive success. Mick dropped out of school when he was just 15 and started his musical journey. He credits his distinct drumming style to Dyslexia. He shared in a memoir that dyslexia helped him have a unique way of creating beats and rhythm and that set him apart from contemporaries.

4. Jewel

Jewel wrote the music and created many memorable numbers for making a living. It is exactly contrary to what she thought of herself during her early years. She shares how she learned to read while struggling with Dyslexia. Her technique to learn to read included making overlays and placing them on sentences so that she could read only one sentence at a time. “Who Will Save Your Soul” is one of her finest songs that has the shades of struggle she went through in her life.

5. Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani, in one of her interviews with People, shares that being surrounded by music and being on the stage were the only times when she felt good. She discovered she had dyslexia when her kids grew up and displayed the same issues which made her academic life quite difficult. Her mind thought in quite a different way and she found it difficult to adjust to the school’s expectations.

6. John Lennon

John Lennon had his whole life devoted to music. He sold millions of albums and amassed huge wealth out of his career in Music. The ace musician could not spell and memorize lyrics efficiently. In the famous Rolling Stone Interview, he tells the interviewer how he was not perceived as bright and talented. Everyone doubted his talent and got little support from teachers.

7. Chris Robinson

Can one be dyslexic and still write? Chris Robinson’s story can answer this question in an affirmative. This songwriter is the leader of the band ‘Chris Robinson Brotherhood’ and has been writing since he was 12. He considered songwriting as an outlet for the emotions and pressures he felt because of being dyslexic. ‘Music comes as an outlet and makes up for the difficulties in the reading department’, he shares. The musician’s writing comprises journals with drawings and words. He prefers writing on Moleskin notebooks that contain colored papers and are considered good stationery for Dyslexia.

8. Ludvig van Beethoven

Beethoven and Music are synonymous with each other. He suffered from an inability to do sums, write letters in his childhood and so was believed to be mildly dyslexic. Since the era was the 1700s, there was no diagnostic support available. Beethoven was pushed into music by his father and trained too hard in music from an early age. His words, “Music comes to me more readily than words”, hint at the disability. Only with rigorous training and passion for music could he make music his niche and become the most classic name in music.


Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence or creativity. People with this learning disorder have shown unprecedented resilience and zeal to establish themselves in society using their creative streak. Several established names who made great careers as scientists, doctors, philosophers, painters, etc. have shown that their out-of-the-box thinking worked as their armor against academic shortcomings. So, all that people with learning difficulties need is more understanding and support from the teachers, parents, and peers; it may help make their path to success less restraintful.


  1. Michel Habib, The neurological basis of developmental dyslexia: An overview and working hypothesis, Brain, Volume 123, Issue 12, December 2000, Pages 2373–2399, https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/123.12.2373

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