Inspirational Musician Tony Melendez
The fact that Tony Melendez Rodriguez is a successful singer, guitar player, songwriter and composer might not be significant to many. But the fact that Melendez has achieved so much without arms is a feat that is respected and honored by all who know Tony Melendez, as well as those who hear his story. Due to his mother using Thalidomide during her pregnancy, Melendez’s arms did not develop, leaving him disabled. This, however, did not leave him bitter or without determination, as it did not take long for him to learn to play the guitar – using his feet.
Tony Melendez was born in the city of Rivas, in Nicaragua, on 9 January 1962. Melendez’s mother took the Thalidomide thinking it was safe, as it was prescribed to her to lessen her morning sickness. In an attempt to help her child, Melendez was taken to the Los Angeles area to be fitted with artificial arms. He only wore the artificial arms until he was about ten years old, saying that he was not comfortable with them. In 1985 he started to perform around the area.
On 15 September 1987 he performed for Pope John Paul II, playing guitar and singing Never Be The Same. The Pope came to him after the song, embraced him warmly and told him that he hoped Melendez would continue on this path and bring hope to others. Melendez continued to compose his own music, and recorded an album in 1989. By 2005 Melendez had formed a band, named Tony Melendez and the Toe Jam Band. He wrote a book named Gift Called Hope, which was published in 1991. While touring with his band, Melendez gave motivational speeches, promoting life and hope. His discography includes, Ways of the Wise, El Muro Se Callo, Debe Haber, Hands in Heaven, The Cup of Life and Intimate Worship.
Over the years, his work and motivational journey has seen Melendez being presented with the Unity Awards Male Vocalist of the Year in 2000, 2002 and in 2004, as well as the Unity Awards Artist of the Year UCMVA in 2002. He was also named as a Positive Role Model of America by President Reagan and received a special commendation by the State of California for his work with the youth. The NFL Alumni Association honored him with an Inspirational Hero Award. Tony Melendez is living proof that a disability does not prevent one from gaining success and inspiring others. He is married and lives with his wife Lynn in Branson, appreciating the gifts he was given and his children, who are his inspiration.