Donald Gould aka ‘The Homeless Piano Man’
What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘Piano Man’? Billy Joel, you say. Well, get ready to have your mind changed. That’s right, it’s time to hang it up, Billy. Move along Stevie. Hit the road, Elton, because there is a new ivory tickler in town and his name is Gould.
In a clip posted by Mashable from 2015, a long-haired man sits at a piano in the Florida streets. He tears through an electrifying cover of prog-rock power ballad ‘Come Sail Away’ – much to the amazement of passers-by.
As he continues to play, one spectator repeats “Do you know how hard that is to play?!” – fascinated by the skill on display.
The song being played by the disheveled gent, once a multi-platinum hit for stadium-rockers Styx, shows talent rarely seen outside of the concert hall.
So, who is this mysterious key thumper?
His name is Donald Gould aka ‘The Homeless Piano Man’.
Michigan resident and an already accomplished musician, Gould studied music theory at Spring Arbor University. However, tragedy befell the former Marine in 1998, when he lost his wife and subsequently, custody of his son. This tailspin led to drug addiction and eventually, life on the streets.
It was the above-mentioned clip – now with a staggering 45 million views – that proved to be a saving grace, going viral shortly after it was uploaded and opening a world of possibility for the former Marine Corp musician.
Shortly after becoming the talk of the internet, a GoFundMe campaign was set up in his name, raising $40,0000. This allowed Gould to attend rehabilitation and get the second chance he needed. Check out the transformation in the video below.
Since this life-altering chain of events, Gould, among many other things, has played in front of a packed stadium– performing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ at the season-opening game for the San Francisco 49ers.
Reflecting on this accomplishment he told ABC 7 “I couldn’t look, I had to focus, I got 80,000 people. I got a performance all of a sudden.”
Although he still struggles with issues relating to his time on the streets, Donald’s life remains filled with positivity – releasing the album Walk on Water in 2017 and showcasing his unique talents around the world. Walk on Water is out now through Triple Pop Records.
Homeless Piano Prodigy Gets College Scholarship, Reconnects with Son After 15 Years
“There’s not a day that’s gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him,” Donald Gould said of his son
A homeless veteran in Sarasota, Florida, has been given a new start – and the chance to reconnect with his son – all because of his prodigious piano playing.
In the less than two weeks since the video was posted, he’s been given temporary housing, awarded a full scholarship to finish his degree at Spring Arbor University, and a GoFundMe page has raised $40,000 to help him “get back on track to his true potential.”
“It’s overwhelming to me,” Gould told Florida’s WFLA. “I can’t believe it. I’m still fighting off tears. It’s unbelievable. I never thought it would come to this. I’m a clarinet player.”
Gould told WWSB that he played clarinet in the U.S. Marine Corps band and later studied music education with the hopes of becoming a music teacher.
“I took music theory and ear training, and I had to learn how to play every instrument from the piccolo down to the tuba,” Gould said. “I can write parts like a handbook.”
Three semesters short of graduation, his studies were cut short when he could no longer pay his tuition. He took a series of jobs, started a family and then succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction.
Things truly fell apart when his 3-year-old son Donny was taken away by social services and his wife committed suicide. His son was eventually adopted at age 5 by a family in Michigan.
“There’s not a day that’s gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him,” he told WFLA.
Gould added that he hoped the video would reach his son and inspire him to reach out. “I’ve always loved him from the day he was born. I’m never going to stop loving him,” he said.
Last week, a segment about Gould on Inside Edition caught the attention of a friend of Donny’s adoptive family.
After seeing the video of Gould and learning that he planned to enter rehab, Donny, now 18, was inspired to reach out and help his birth father get his life back together. “I thought [his music] was very beautiful,” he told Inside Edition. Adding, “I want to just help him clean his act up.”
The father and son reconnected over video chat. “It was very weird for me to see that face for the very first time,” Donny said.
After speaking with his son, Gould entered a rehab facility to seek treatment for his addictions. He remains hopeful that after completing the program, he’ll be able to regain the thing that matters most to him – a relationship with his son.