This homeless piano player brings out all our feelings in one song
A homeless man in Sarasota, Florida started playing piano on the street hoping that he could make some money. But he’s made himself a lot more than that. In fact, he’s made himself an Internet star.
Donald Gould, 51, who’s known around the town as “Boone,” plays five songs that he learned as he was growing up on the pianos on the sidewalks of Sarasota. The pianos were donated as part of the Sarasota Keys Piano Project, reports WWSB. And now, a video of Donald playing “Come Sail Away” by Styx on the piano has since gone totally viral on Facebook. The video, in which Donald soulfully and gorgeously plays a cover of the ’70s hit, has been viewed over 3.5 million times and shared 130,000 times, and we totally understand why. His talent is absolutely unbelievable.
Donald puts his personal twist on several other songs as well, such as Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and Bach’s “Toccata.” “I might not do the whole song complete as it was recorded originally,” Donald told WWSB, “but I [know] enough to touch people out here — ’cause I’ve touched a lot of people apparently.”
The music man, who originally hails from Michigan, didn’t start out with piano. In fact, he played clarinet as a child, which he ended up playing for the U.S. Marine Corps. He then studied music education at Spring Arbor University so that he could teach music one day. But unfortunately, three semesters before he could graduate, he ran out of money and had to take up other jobs to support his family. “I took music theory and ear training, and I had to learn how to play every instrument from the piccolo down to the tuba,” Donald told WWSB. “I can write parts like a handbook.”
But then, tragedy struck. “They sat me down, and they told me what had happened, that my wife had passed away. . . and I just lost it, man,” Donald explained to WWSB. He began to abuse substances, and his three-year-old son was sent away to Social Services. Donald was left homeless. . . but he found music again when he met Paul Lonardo, with whom he plays gigs.
Sometimes, Donald does get to be a teacher. Children will sit next to him, and he’ll let them play. “I play the ‘Heart and Soul’ bass, I say ‘just hit the white keys, you can’t screw up,’” he told WWSB. “It doesn’t matter how they play, if they play crappy or good, I always clap for them. . . I’m a nurturer, I’m a teacher.”
Now, his incredible online success may land him a potential act at a piano bar, according to People. There’s also a virtual tip jar set up by a fan in his honor, a GoFundMe page to help Donald get back on his feet. (It’s racked up $7,000 in donations so far.) In the meantime, if you haven’t heard his soul-stirring version of Styx’s greatest hit, please prepare for the feels.
(Images via YouTube)