"Blind Tom" Wiggins

A programme for Blind Tom as a 10-year-old

Blind Tom at 10 years old

Born a slave in the deep south, Thomas Greene “Blind Tom” Wiggins was a gifted pianist and savant. Mostly forgotten today, Wiggins was the toast of two continents and for a time as famous as any living musician. In 1860 he gave a command performance at the White House for President James Buchanan that drew further attention to his rising fame and the press referred to him as “the greatest pianist of the age whose skills surpassed Mozart.”

Wiggins very early demonstrated an astounding aptitude for flawlessly repeating any music he heard and then adapting it to create new tunes. As a composer, he employed a flowing, naturalistic style that inspired such titles as “Daylight,” “Voice of the Waves,” “Water in the Moonlight,” and (his favorite) “What the Wind and the Waves Told Tom.” His talent was exploited by various owners before his death in 1908.

Despite the rumors that his remains were sent to Georgia, the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn is indeed, still the last resting place of this gifted, exploited man. The Evergreens’ records show that he has been in the same grave on Pleasant Hill for one hundred years. The grave, however, was unmarked until a pianist who rediscovered Blind Tom Wiggins’s music, John Davis, arranged to have a tombstone placed over it in 2002.

Information taken from the book Green Oasis in Brooklyn: The Evergreens Cemetery by John Rousmaniere. Learn more here.