Posts Tagged ‘jimi hendrix’

It’s the emotional climax that has defined so many classic songs.  The guitar solo has been responsible for turning many a musician into a legend.  In the 60’s Clapton was God, until Hendrix showed why he was the greatest of all time.   Jimi Hendrix playing guitar is a mesmerising experience.  Perhaps not as technically accomplished as others who followed, Hendrix free spirited creativity made up for that two fold, his hands seamlessly flowing across the neck.  It’s like he hadn’t learnt how to play; he was just born to play.

Jimi Hendrix was like so many others performers of the twentieth century; talented beyond comprehension and full of passion and soul that poured out through their music.  The versatility of the guitar itself had afforded so many musicians throughout history, the ability to carve their own unique sound to the point where a style of playing is as individual as the sound of a singer’s voice.

 But it’s fair to say that today; the popular performers are rarely seen with a guitar.  Actually, they probably can’t even play one or any instrument for that matter.  Today it’s more about dance moves or how raunchy a film clip can be.

 But the one thing that saddens me more than anything is the demise of the guitar solo (and saxophone solo for that matter).  It’s been replaced in most pop songs by a rapper with poor grammar speaking  mundane lyrics most probably with a choice of profanities thrown in for good measure.   But then again, even for the rock bands I’ve heard on commercial radio, there seems to be a lack of soulful guitar playing.  It’s as if a guitar solo is seen as excessive or something. Perhaps even uncool, or too 1980’s.

 It’s not like people aren’t playing instruments anymore.  There is undeniably loads of talented musicians out there, but for some reason, the music industry for the most part is favouring watered down trash.  It’s not just guitars; all instruments are being oppressed in the face of what I call digitised music.  Saxophone solos of passion are long gone, the dreamscapes Pink Floyd painted with a lap steal are reserved for the past and the mesmerising drums of Soul Sacrifice seem a distant memory of Woodstock.

 It’s the beauty of music that allows a song without words to somehow find a way to say the things words can’t say at all.  Music would be all the more powerful in today’s world if people would only look beyond the words and image to appreciate the most important part; the music.

746px-Eric__slowhand__ClaptonIf you asked a group of kids under the age of 20, most would say who cares.  Unfortunately in the Internet driven world of the 21st century music like all media has become diversified and subsequently targeted to very niche markets.  So perhaps Rock isn’t dead, but still the musical landscape today is not what it was 20 years ago.

 In my opinion, Rock music as a mainstream genre died with Kurt Cobain almost 20 years ago, yet I’d still concur that rock is not dead; not while the troubles of the Earth still compromise peace, not while humans still feel suffering and pain.  For me, rock music has its roots in the blues, the music of suffering.  What’s happened in the last 20 years is the rapid dematerialisation of music, as artists push further away from the simple influence of popular music’s forefathers to seek influence from more cotemporary sources. 

When I say forefathers of popular music I don’t mean Michael Jackson, or John Lennon.  The roots of pop stem back to the Mississippi Delta, to the original blues legend, Robert Johnson.  In the 50’s the likes of Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins and Howlin Wolf would have a profound impact on the British blues boom, which gave birth to bands like The Beatles, The Stones, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.  The golden age of rock and roll, really does have the blues to thank for its existence.

But the influence didn’t end there in the 60’s.  Heavy Metal too was forged on the blues and as late as the nineties, the bands of the time were still obsessed with the blues no mater how far from the genre they may have been perceived.  Kurt Cobain’s love for the music of Lead Belly became evident to all during his cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night at Nirvana’s famous unplugged in New York session, whilst Nirvana’s grunge counterparts Pearl Jam have cited 80’s blues immortal Stevie Ray Vaughan as a massive influence.

But today’s bands don’t seem to have the same direction.  The lines have blurred too much, to a point where rock music is confused and watered down.  Bands lack originality in my opinion because they’re working from influences that have already exploited ideas.  It’s like taking an already well painted piece of canvas and trying to paint a completely different picture.  From the 50’s to the 90’s the formula was simple, simple chords, simple riff and a unique melody.   The blues was like an empty canvas for artists to work off and develop their own unique sound.

So no, rock isn’t dead, it’s just a bit ill.  But that’s nothing a good dose of the blues can’t fix