A. Django Reinhardt – born Jean Reinhardt (23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953) was a Belgian-born Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer, regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century. He was the first jazz talent to emerge from Europe and remains the most significant.
On the night of 2 November 1928, Reinhardt was going to bed in the wagon that he and his wife shared in the gypsy caravan. Apparently, he knocked over a candle, which ignited the extremely flammable celluloid that his wife used to make artificial flowers. The wagon was quickly engulfed in flames. The couple escaped, but Reinhardt suffered extensive burns over half his body. During his 18 month hospitalization, doctors apparently recommended amputation for his badly damaged right leg. Reinhardt refused the surgery and was eventually able to walk with the aid of a cane.
More crucial to his music, the fourth and fifth fingers of Reinhardt’s left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again. Reinhardt applied himself to intensely relearning his craft, however, making use of a new guitar bought for him by his brother, Joseph Reinhardt, who was also an accomplished guitarist. While he never regained the use of those two fingers, Reinhardt regained his musical mastery by focusing on his left index and middle fingers, using the two injured fingers only for chord work.