Thursday, July 5, 2007
Battle of the Living and the Dead
If you picked two all-star teams of guitarists, one in which everyone was still alive, and the other in which everyone was dead by the age of 40, which would be better? To choose up teams, we'll rely on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest guitarists, selected by the redoubtable rock critic David Fricke, who knows way more about guitar players than I do. We'll start from the top, picking among the living and the dead until we get to a team of five guitarists.
First, the living:
B.B. King (No. 3 on David's list): 1925-
Eric Clapton (4): 1945-
Chuck Berry (6): 1926-
Ry Cooder (8): 1947-
Jimmy Page (9): 1944- Have I mentioned how much I hate Robert Plant's singing?
Now, the dead by 40:
Jimi Hendrix (1): 1942-1970. Choked on his own vomit.
Duane Allman (2): 1946-1971. Motorcycle, meet truck.
Robert Johnson (5): 1911-1938. The Devil made himself a good deal here.
Stevie Ray Vaughan (7): 1954-1990. Helicopter coming out of Alpine Valley theatre in Wisconsin, didn't make it past a skiing hill.
Kurt Cobain (12): 1967-1994. Sad, sad, sad.
You'd have to give the nod to the dead guys, wouldn't you? Cobain's a bit of a ringer, a better singer and songwriter than a guitarist, in my opinion, but Robert Johnson's third on his team, and it's easy to imagine him coming in at Number One overall. Plus I could have made it dead by 30 and everyone here still would have landed a slot, except for Stevie Ray, who would lose his spot to Eddie Cochran.
The amazing one to me is Duane Allman (seen above in his dentist's office), who had time in his brief life to head up his own band, play as a sideman in another great band (Derek and the Dominoes), and gain a rep as a great session guy playing with the likes of Wilson Pickett -- all before he turned 25. How much did you accomplish before you were 25?