There are a few in this world that have unbelievable superhuman powers of the mind. Often despite other disabilities.
They are called savants.
One of the most amazing is Leslie Lemke.
Leslie Lemke was born in 1952 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Born prematurely, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, glaucoma and brain damage. Tragically, doctors had to remove his eyes.
After his mother gave him up for adoption, he was adopted by a nurse, May Lemke, when he was just six months old.
May and her husband Joe Lemke, had already raised five children of their own. But this did not stop them from taking baby Leslie into their home.
May loved the little boy intensely, and she took gentle care of him although at first he could not suck on a bottle, eat or move.
Eventually, he could do all these things, and May even taught him to stand and walk a little by holding onto a fence.
At a young age, she introduced Leslie to the piano by placing his arms over hers as she was playing. He appeared to love music and sounds.
He also seemed to have an astounding memory for mimicking conversations and music.
Superpower - details
Although many signs were there earlier, it was when Leslie was about 16 years old, that his genius began to bloom.
One night, May awoke to piano music. Thinking that his husband had left the TV on, she went to turn it off. Instead, she found Leslie playing the theme song of a Sunday night movie that they had watched earlier.
Leslie, who did not have any musical training, was playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 perfectly, after hearing it only once.
Even though he is blind and has an IQ of about 40 he can hear a piece of music one time, and then accurately reproduce it. Not only can he reproduce it, he can also remember it perfectly in the future.
He can also copy the style of musicians and has amazed audiences in the past with his imitations of famous musicians.
Leslie in “Islands of Genius”
What can we learn from him?
It is an inspiring story of love, determination, the power of music and human potential. It demonstrates that there are incredibly skilled individuals of all ages with a broad range of abilities that remain latent, quietly waiting for a chance to explode and flourish.
What is Leslie up to now?
Sadly, May was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the 80’s.
Astonishingly, Leslie’s music could bring her memories to life. She would sing with Leslie and then fall silent when the music stopped. In 1993, she died while in her daughter’s home.
Mary, May’s daughter, took over caring for Leslie in her modest home in North Central Wisconsin.
Leslie has continued to showcase his talent. He has given concerts across the US and abroad.
He has toured Japan and even performed for the Prince of Norway in 1984. He has appeared in famous TV shows such as 60 Minutes, Oprah and Donahue. His appearance on 60 Minutes inspired Dustin Hoffman to play the role of the savant in the movie ‘Rain man’.
Leslie continues to play and sing beautifully, and it seems his repertoire is limitless.
Professional musicians are blown away by his innate understanding of the rules of music-despite the fact that he has never attended a music lesson in his life.
Even though he rarely performs in concerts these days, there are compilations of his music on tape and DVD.
Links and Videos
Leslie’s Wikipedia Page