He wasn’t blind at birth; he was born with glaucoma, but he finally lost his eyesight for good during a soccer game, in which he got hit in the face and suffered a brain hemorrhage.
So instead of becoming the next Dino Zoff, he turned to his other great passion, music. He had already begun listening to the works of Franco Corelli and working on piano composition, and he started emulating the styles of the great tenors.
Although he’d won a couple of local music competitions in his teens, he was really discovered by Zucchero, an Italian pop singer who, if you’ve heard of him at all, is famous for his duet with Paul Young, Senza Una Donna, in 1991, in which Zucchero & Young take turns morphing into a dancing Italian model in an abandoned restaurant.
The story goes that Zucchero was about to do a record with Luciano Pavarotti, but after hearing Bocelli sing, he tossed all that out, and Bocelli was a sensation.
While not considered on the same level as Pavarotti, Placido Domingo or Jose Carreras (he’s a little flat, and the critics are often not crazy about him), Bocelli is as popular as any of them, especially among people for whom opera & classical music isn’t a life’s passion.