Neil Young is a legend. And a legendary Canadian. He decided that music was his passion, moving to Los Angeles in the 60s. Subsequently, he formed Buffalo Springfield. His tenor voice, guitar skills, and hard-hitting, personal lyrics created a musical assault of sorts – and won him millions of fans worldwide. Some trivia for you: did you know that during his early days with Buffalo Springfield, he was diagnosed with epilepsy? So really, are there any excuses not to learn the guitar?
Young was a musical prodigy from an early age and was exposed to the likes of his idol Elvis Presley, as well as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. He taught himself to play on a plastic ukulele, which progressed to everything BUT a guitar! Following success with Buffalo, he went solo for a year before reuniting with former bandmate Stephen Stills. He went between being in a band and performing solo but was successful in every endeavor.
Born in Minneapolis in 1958, Prince was an absolute guitar extraordinaire. At age seven, he was writing songs, and his very first was titled “Funk Machine.” Sure, critics love to compare artists, trying to look for similarities or maybe just to tell them they’re copycats.
In Prince’s case, music reviewers have said they hear the sounds of Hendrix in his music, but Prince disagreed with these claims, saying: “If they really listened to my stuff, they’d hear more of a Santana influence than Jimi Hendrix.” Indeed, Prince is known for his melodic riffs. If you’ve not heard Prince in a while, go on, treat your Spotify followers to “When Doves Cry” or maybe even to his solo in “Purple Rain.” Timeless.
Now, not many can say they’ve jammed with “The King,” Elvis Presley. Scotty Moore, however, is one of the very few exceptions. Born in Gadsden, Tennessee, Moore had been with Elvis since they were teens. The two, alongside bassist Bill Black, would form a trio that would change music forever. The trio didn’t actually have a designated drummer, which put more pressure on Moore to deliver and add some rhythm and foundation.
One night in June 1954, when the three were just jamming and mucking around, they came across a sound that would define them. It was the “slapback” echo effect that led to the song “That’s All Right.” It was the beginning of a new chapter and the making of history. Moore was there for Elvis during his highs and lows, helping him during his comeback in 1968.
Keith Richards is perhaps one of the most recognizable guitarists in the world; he's the guitarist, secondary vocalist, and co-principal songwriter of The Rolling Stones. Rolling Stone magazine wrote of Richards as the creator of “rock’s greatest single body of riffs” on the guitar. This guitar legend was born in Kent, England, in 1943, and it seems music was in his blood: his maternal grandfather, Augustus Theodore “Gus” Dupree, actually toured Britain with a big jazz band – and it was Dupree who gave Richards his first guitar. In a funny childhood story, Dupree had a guitar on a shelf that Richards couldn’t reach and bet him that if he could reach it, he could have it. Over time, Richards devised methods to retrieve the guitar until finally got hold of it.
From that point on, Richards’s lessons began. But while his grandfather encouraged his musical discovery, his father was against his son’s musicality. We’ve heard this story before, right? Regardless, fast forward a few years, and Richards is one of the most extraordinary guitarists ever, creating his own unique style via tuning of his guitar. Similar to Van Halen, Richards’s music is imitated and copied, but just doesn’t sound the same when it isn’t his fingers plucking and strumming. Songs like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Gimme Shelter,” and “Paint it Black” are all testaments to his work and craft.
Born in the 40s, this old rocker was one of the three notable guitarists to have played with The Yardbirds (the others include Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton). But Beck moved on from The Yardbirds to form The Jeff Beck Group, then Beck, Bogert & Appice. Beck has always had more of a focus on instrumental output, particularly on creating innovative sounds: he’s covered lots of bases, with genres from blues-rock and hard rock over to electronica.
Despite his huge talent and hit albums, Beck didn’t quite reach the sustained commercial success of many of his ex-bandmates and contemporaries. But in saying that, he’s definitely collaborated with lots of great musicians, including Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, Roger Waters, Brian May, ZZ Top, and the list goes on. When you’re next on Spotify or surfing Youtube, look up Jeff Beck’s hits: “A Day in the Life,” “I Ain’t Superstitious,” and “Heart Full of Soul. ” You’ll be in awe of this innovative soul’s way of mixing sounds and creating something unique. Sadly, in January 2023, Beck passed away.