Video Of A Homeless Man Playing Piano In Public Went Viral And Gave Him A Second Chance In Life

Video Of A Homeless Man Playing Piano In Public Went Viral And Gave Him A Second Chance In Life
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How many times have you listened to a song and believed that it was recounting exactly how you felt at that moment? For Donald Gould, a homeless man in the streets of Sarasota, Florida, the song, “Come Sail Away”, might just be what he needed to encourage him to carry on and reach for his dreams.

Donald Gould served in the US Marines in his younger days and studied to be a music teacher at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. With just three semesters short from graduation, Donald had to drop out due to the inability to pay for his tuition. Thereafter, he got married and had a child. His wife’s sudden death in 1998 led him to an addiction to alcohol and drugs that caused his child to be taken away from him. Providence had it that a public art project brought Donald’s remarkable talent to light. A video of him playing Styx’s “Come Sail Away” on the community piano went viral and gave him a second chance in life. Donald was given a makeover, a scholarship to finish his university degree, as well as job opportunities.

To date, the video of Donald playing the piece on YouTube has reached 19 million in viewership, and still counting. The appeal of this video has gone beyond a homeless man’s ability to play the piano. When watching Donald playing the piano, one feels the compellation to pause and listen to his story told through the melody. Music has a miraculous power of communicating without words. A different person could play the same piece but if one listened intently, one could tell that the emotions which flowed with the melody differed from those that came from the original performer. Music somehow interlinks our emotions and life experiences; it works as an extension of our sentiments.

Even without the use of lyrics, Donald’s body language, the slight display of urgency in his tempo, suggested the heart-wrenching emotions going through him while playing. He probably knew the lyrics of the piece he was playing and they reminded him of the despair, memories of the past that haunted him and the little faith that he desperately held on to. As he played on, the tune served as unspoken words to anyone who was listening; that was what Donald truly felt in his heart.   

Life experiences do not just come with age. Choi Sung Bong from South Korea, who took part in “Korea has Talent” touched the hearts of millions though his incredible life story. It seemed incredulous to many that Sung Bong had lived on the streets since he was five years old. The hardship he went through, the hope that music gave him and the voice that sang a song with much passion, demonstrated how music harmonised with our inner feelings.

Donald could have never thought his dreams would come true, but every so often, destiny is often so inexplicable. With his fate changed, one can be certain that Donald will treasure what he has now and stay true to the words of the song, “But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold; But we’ll try best that we can to carry on…”.

Styx – Come Sail Away

I'm sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I've got to be free, free to face the life that's ahead of me
On board I'm the captain so climb aboard
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I'll try oh Lord I'll try to carry on

I look to the sea reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But we'll try best that we can to carry on

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said
They said come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me