Book Review – Guitar Player: Guitar Heroes of the 70s

The 1970s was an era of guitar greatness.  It was a time when music stood for something.  Lyrics were often a cry for peace to end the Vietnam War.  Other songs were about love, drugs and anthems of rock.  It was also a time when guitar performance evolved a great deal.  As some guitar greats were making their triumphant entrance into the spotlight, others were reaching an unfortunate end.  Throughout decade, a fledgling magazine, Guitar Player, revealed the musical artisans that we still cherish in the 21st century.

In Guitar Player Presents: Guitar Heroes of the ‘70s, the magazine has sifted through its archives to release a compilation of interviews.  These are the transcribed words from the visionaries of the decade who influenced a generation and much of the music of today.   Michael Molenda, currently the editor-in-chief of Guitar Player and editor of this collection, dug up interviews from the greats you would expect and some you wouldn’t think about, at least I didn’t.

The compilation has one of the final interviews from Jimi Hendrix recorded in February 1970, about six months prior to his untimely death.  There is a nice piece featuring the early history of Al Di Meola’s career, one of my guitar favorites.  Tony Iommi reveals how he changed from playing a Fender Stratocaster to a Gibson SG. Carlos Santana describes how the congas entered his music-making and transformed his sound from blues to a Latinized-rock blend.

Eddie Van Halen, Jerry Garcia, Frank Zappa, Pete Townsend, David Gilmore, Brian May, Robert Fripp are just a few of the others greats included.

Recognizing that editorial decisions had to be made and without complete knowledge of the Guitar Player archives, the glaring omissions include Andres Segovia (the godfather of the classical guitar in the 20th century), Paul McCartney, B.B. King, Johnny Ramone, and Angus Young. I am sure there are others, but these are the ones I could easily recall.

All that said, the more I dug into in this collection, the more I recognized this is a goldmine of information from the guitar greats before we labeled many of them as “legends.”  It is a reminder of how rich and exotic music can to be as a result of musical exploration and experimentation, something that is sorely lacking into today’s hodgepodge of musical mediocrity.

An excerpt of the book is available at HalLeonardBooks.com.

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