Jeff Healey, the well-known jazz guitarist, has passed away at the age of 41 after losing a lifelong battle against cancer.

The musician, who lost his sight as a baby due to a rare form of cancer known as retinoblastoma, died at St Joseph's hospital in Toronto yesterday.

He was known as a solo artist, as well as the founder of a trio that bore his name, and gained international recognition in the late 1980s for his unique blend of rock and blues guitar riffs.

He joined his first band in 1984 at the age of 17, but shot to fame after his appearance in the critically-acclaimed film Road House.

Healey was signed by record label Arista, with whom he recorded the Grammy-nominated album See the Light and hit single Angel Eyes.

A Juno award in 1990 as entertainer of the year followed, as well as appearances alongside some of the world's most famous guitarists including Bb King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Harrison and Mark Knopfler.

However, his fame dwindled throughout the rest of the decade and he released a variety of compilation and 'best-of' albums.

His most recent recording, Mess of Blues, was set for release this month in Europe - through German label Ruf Records - and next month in the United States and Canada - through roots music company Stony Plain.

It is thought that the release dates of March 20th and April 22nd will be adhered to, although the album will now be dedicated to the guitarist's memory.

Healey leaves behind a family of three - his wife, Cristie, his daughter Rachel, 13, and his son Derek, three.

Funeral arrangements are currently being made. It is expected there will be a memorial service scheduled for fans to pay their respects, as well as a more low-key funeral service for family and close friends.

03/03/2008 17:21:02