And last but not least, is none other than the iconic, the legendary, the mythical-man-creature, Jimi Hendrix. It’s undoubted that he had a way with a guitar that was unlike any other before him (or after him!) Born in 1942 in Seattle, this godly guitar player is one who has gone down in history (and will forever be remembered) as the greatest guitar player of all time. In a sad twist, however, his career was cut remarkably short – despite his immense talent, he had barely scratched the surface when it came to unlocking his potential. If he were alive today, he would’ve been turning 77 this year.
His instantly recognizable riffs and his otherworldly sound were both produced by his ability to perfect feedback, as well as his knack for combining notes and chords that hadn’t been experimented with before. It’s no wonder that his crazed fans believed him to be an extra-terrestrial! But Jimi was far from awkward or alien-like, he was a smooth man full of soul and a great vision for music and the world. His hits “All Along the Watchtower”, “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady” go down as some of the most memorable songs for guitarists ever. Not to mention his singularly unique interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Well deserved, Jimi.
B. B. King
Riley B. King, known professionally as B.B. King, was a blues maestro – singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. With an almost incomparable career, King introduced a style of soloing that was based on fluidity, involving a variety of string bending and vibrato techniques. As such, these influenced many later electric blues guitarists, setting a tone for what blues and rock and roll were to become.
Born on a cotton plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi in 1925, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and widely recognized as one of the most influential blues musicians ever, earning the prestigious moniker “The King of the Blues.” Being born in the 20s, King was exposed to perhaps the purest form of the blues style of music, truly being able to express feeling and soul through both his singing and his guitar playing. A workhouse and showman, in 1956 alone, it’s estimated that he performed a staggering 342 shows! By the 70s, he was performing 200 shows a year. Incredible.
Thomas Baptist Morello was born in Harlem on May 30, 1964, making waves in the music industry, as the lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine. In the photo below, he’s actually leading an “Occupy Wall Street” event back in 2011. A strong advocate for social change, he also graduated from Harvard University. Morello has also been part of Audioslave, and more recently, the band Prophets of Rage.
He also toured with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. He’s also got his own solo act, the Nightwatchman and Street Sweeper Social Club. He’s very active in the music world and extremely passionate! His distinctive style comes by the way of different sounds he creates with his guitar, through the use of effect pedals. Making that sound was a crucial turning point in Rage’s almost hip-hop/heavy metal fusion (what you might know as Nu Metal).
With a stage name like Albert King, you’d be expecting this top guitarist to have a stage presence to match. Born Albert Nelson in Indianola, Mississippi in 1923, he’s well remembered for saying that he had no influences on his playing style. According to King, he couldn’t relate to any past guitarist, saying “everything I do is wrong.” His nickname, “The Velvet Bulldozer” comes from the fact that he was smooth, but also of large stature, weighing in at 110kg and standing at 6ft 7.
Also, fun fact: he was left-handed but taught himself to play on a right-handed guitar. This tall drink of water managed to master this type of guitar because he played it upside down! Best known for his songs “Born Under a Bad Sign”, and “As the Years Go Passing By”, this legendary guitarist even stopped Jimi Hendrix in his tracks when he opened for him in 1967.
The rhythm guitarist of the one and only, The Beatles, Lennon is the first of two Beatles to be included among the likes of Hendrix and Clapton. Lennon had a unique talent in that he could take a couple of simple notes and string them together in an incredibly beautiful way that was so catchy you couldn't help but get it stuck in your head. Now that’s talent. To this day, the Beatles are the best-selling band in history, having sold 1.6 billion records. While he was a talented guitarist, John Lennon’s reach and influence went much further.
He was also a staunch peace activist, well known for his criticism of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration even attempted to deport him from the U.S. Unfortunately, as it often happens with musical geniuses, they leave us far too soon. Murdered by an avid fan, Lennon was tragically taken from the world. In the weeks following his murder, Double Fantasy topped the charts in both the UK and the U.S., and “Imagine” hit number one in the UK in January 1981. Fans were devastated but honored his memory by playing his music. RIP Lennon.