In one moment, a man went from homeless and addicted to famous and free.

In that moment, the only thing she could do was take out her phone, hit record and post the video online.

When the video and the story behind it emerged, it sent ripples through the world. 

A Street Pianist Is Discovered

piano filled with dirt and rocks

Photo by Maria Orlova

On looks alone, Aurore Henry had no reason to reach for the record button. After all, he was a frail, unkept 51-year-old man sitting around downtown Sarasota, Florida. His name was Donald Gould, and he carried a heavy heart. 

A former Marine, Gould’s life fell apart when his wife died suddenly in 1998. According to PEOPLE, it sent him deep into addiction and he lost custody of his 3-year-old son Donny. He was eventually adopted by a family at age 5.

Yet Henry wasn’t recording Gould for his looks or story, but his sound. That’s because he wasn’t sitting just anywhere but at a piano. And as Henry found out, when Donald Gould plays the piano, it’s pure magic. On this day, he was playing Styx’s ‘Come Sail Away.’

“We went outside to chat and we saw him playing and it was so phenomenal that I got my phone out to start recording it,” Henry recalled per the Daily Mail.

That decision would take this story to new heights.

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"family" on a white background

Photo by Vie Studio

Gould’s performance was a success, going platinum with over 9 million views and 2 million likes. Moved by Gould’s music and with the motivation to act, his fans set up a GoFundMe account to help him get back on his feet. Incredibly, it raised $40,000 in just eight days.

Gould was speechless. “It’s overwhelming to me,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I’m still fighting off tears. It’s unbelievable. I never thought it would come to this.”

But it would be one viewer in particular among those millions that makes this story so priceless. A segment featuring Gould on Inside Edition caught the attention of a friend of Donny’s adoptive family. Word got back to Donny and after 15 years apart, father and son reconnected.

One of the first things he did was set some smart goals, like entering rehab. Donny said that he’s happy his father is on the right track, saying, “I want to just help him clean his act up.”

It turns out that Gould would also need clean living for another big break.

A Homeless Man Turned Music Star

In addition to building back his health and family, Gould’s music would also hit a high note. Texas-based Triple Pop Records reached out and offered him a contract to record his first single, none other than Styx’s ‘Come Sail Away.’ The lead vocalist and keyboardist of Styx, Dennis DeYoung, even sent Gould his congratulations.

And, in a far cry from a sidewalk show, he recently played the national anthem at a 49ers football game in front of 80,000 fans.

He’s released an album titled ‘Walk on Water’ and is putting together songs to audition on ‘American Idol.’

Talk about going from ashy to classy.

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While it’s been a wild ride, Gould is quick to say what — rather, who — he cherishes most.

“There’s not a day that’s gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him,” said Gould of his son Donny. “I’ve always loved him from the day he was born. I’m never going to stop loving him.” That’s something that a plaque can never express.

In a strange way, you have to think that Gould’s broken heart is also the fuel for such beautiful music.

Like him, if we can find a way to keep playing despite our own pain, great things can unfold. You just need a little faith and a song in your heart.

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