Robert Finley may be blind, but he was able to move America with his inspiring story and voice on this week’s America’s Got Talent. The 65-year-old, infectious, soulful singer brought down the house and had the entire room on its feet and the judges grinning from ear-to-ear as he performed one of his original songs, “Get It While You Can.”
Born and raised in Winnsboro, Louisiana to a sharecropper, Finley says they didn’t get to go to school but had to start picking cotton at an early age. Robert grew up singing in a church choir. At 11 years old, he took money his father gave him for new shoes and bought his first guitar. He then got hooked on blues, soul, and R&B. Music was his salvation. “Every chance I got I played my music,” he says.
He joined the Army in 1970 at age 19. He was trained as a helicopter technician and was assigned to an army base in Germany during the Vietnam War. He ended up transferring to the Army entertainment unit and performed around Europe as a much-needed bandleader entertaining the troops.
After the war Finley started a family and provided for them working as a carpenter. Music jobs were scarce. Some 50+ years later at age 60, he began to lose his eyesight which also caused him to lose his carpentry career. But the loss made him reach inside and find himself again he says. He exclaims that at 65 he feels like he’s just coming alive and finally living his childhood dream.
“I had to lose my physical sight so that I could see my true destiny.”
Thanks to Timothy Duffy of the Music Makers Foundation who originally discovered him busking on the street. Finley recorded his debut album in 2016. He is currently managed by SKH Music and became the breakout star of Dan Auerbach’s 2018 Easy Eye Sound Revue tour.
We simply love Robert and are so pleased to feature him on our 2019 cover of the Blues Festival Guide annual magazine. Thanks again to photographer Marilyn Stringer who provided us with her amazing photo of this talented and humble soul.
“See? Chasing dreams doesn’t have to be achieved when you’re young. Life is not a race! You can still rock and roll even when you reach 70 ‘til a hundred!!” Chelsea Malazarte/YouTube fan
“I’m going to give you everything I’ve got,” promises Robert Finley.