Sunday, May 17, 2015

Great guitar solos, #8: Freddie King's "San-Ho-Zay"

Photo courtesy of Stanley Livingston
Freddie King is the least known of the three major blues guitarists with the King surname, but while B.B. and Albert King gained more notoriety, Freddie was potent in his own rite. 

Like many a great blues player, King hailed from Texas, where he learned an old school acoustic fingerpicking style which he later adapted to the electric guitar. Though he sang, King made his mark with instrumentals, particularly "Hide Away," a #5 Billboard R & B hit later interpreted by many a bluesman, including Stevie Ray Vaughan and a young and hungry Eric Clapton.

One of King's other biggest releases was "San-Ho-Zay," presented below in a 1966 performance on "The Beat." There's much to like visually in the period details of this video (the go-go dancers, the raised platforms, the pastel colors of the studio, the crisply-dressed uptown band) and King's oh-so-pretty tomato red Gibson. Musically, King typified a less-is-more lead guitar style which was the norm before Jimi Hendrix and the Yardbirds alums sexed things up with volume, effects pedals, and advanced technique.

King doesn't waste a note in this compact piece. There's no showing off or reckless abandon, just spicy nuts-and-bolts playing: tasteful bends, tight vibratos, barbed stops and starts. And he does it with no gimmicks, nothing but a clean Gibson tone. Much as I love the dynamism of King's descendants, there's no substitute for pure blues feeling.    
  

                                             Follow Dan Benbow on Twitter    

Other Truth and Beauty guitar hero essays:

         Click here for "The Second Coming:  Stevie Ray Vaughan," 
a first-hand account of Vaughan's final concert

here for "The heaviest New Year's Eve guitar jam ever: Hendrix
does 'Machine Gun'"
                       
  here for "Link Wray's 'Rumble'"   
                  
here for "Great Guitar Solos, #1:  Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #2:  Frank Zappa"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #3:  Hiram Bullock" 

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #5:  Alvin Lee"

 here for "Great Guitar Solos, #6: Neil Young's 'Hey Hey, My My'"

and here for "Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - The Six-String Wizardry of Frank Zappa, Part II"

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A noirish door mural in the Mission District


Truth and Beauty photo essays:

eye-catching architecture, and miscellaneous city scenes 
in a stroll from the Mission to South of Market to downtown

"Crystal Blue Persuasion" is a walking photo tour of San Francisco from the Bay to the Ocean (and a golden sunset) on a pristine sunny day just before Xmas

"Gone but not Forgotten" is a tribute to a friend who left this world all too soon 

"A Sunny* Monday in San Francisco" is a day tour of the city, 
from Mission Street to the Pacific Ocean

"On a clear day you can see forever" explores Noe Valley, Ashbury Heights, 
the Inner Sunset district, microclimates, and street art on a pristine September day 

"Random San Francisco" has 46 photos which range from 
ornate architecture to vistas to murals to sidewalk messaging

"California in November" captures deep fall natural splendor

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A look back at "Strange Fruit" on the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth

“People have tried to explain in words what the power of music is—and usually failed. All we know is that sometimes, a short song, taking just a few minutes, can have as much impression on a listener as a whole novel can….You can bounce experiences of your life against it, and it bounces back new meanings.”

-Pete Seeger, musician/activist, on “Strange Fruit”



On August 7, 1930, a heavily-armed white mob broke into the Grant County Courthouse in Marion, Indiana. Inside were three black men (Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith, and James Cameron) who were being held as suspects in the murder of a white man and the alleged rape of his girlfriend.

As police officers looked on, Shipp, Smith, and Cameron were dragged from the courthouse and severely beaten. Shipp and Smith were then lynched in front of a crowd of thousands. No charges were filed in their murders.

Seven years later, Abel Meeropol—a public high school teacher and political activist in the Bronx—came into contact with a photo of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith hanging from a tree. Horrified by the image, Meeropol wrote an anti-lynching poem entitled “Bitter Fruit,”
The photo that drove Meeropol
to pen "Strange Fruit"
which he later changed to “Strange Fruit” and set it to music.

The route that Meeropol’s 12-line song traveled from New York political events to Billie Holiday’s famous recording is murky. 


In one account, Meeropol presented the song to Holiday while she was performing at the Café Society—an integrated night club in Greenwich Village—through the café’s owner, Barney Josephson. Others credit Robert Gordon (a Café Society producer who’d been exposed to the song at a Madison Square Garden anti-fascism rally) with introducing the number to Holiday.

The identity of the composer(s) is also a mystery. In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, Holiday claimed that she, Meeropol, and her pianist banged the arrangement out “in three weeks,” but Arthur Herzog, who wrote for Holiday, said “Strange Fruit” was written 
by blues/jazz arranger Danny Mendelsohn. 

Holiday's label, Columbia, refused to be associated with the song, so she recorded it at the Commodore label's 52nd Street studio on April 20, 1939. With the backing of the Café Society’s house band, "Strange Fruit" was cut in just four hours.


Though the song has forever been associated with Billie Holiday, she doesn’t appear until 71 seconds into the recording. Considering the original arrangement too short (since Commodore charged more than their label competitors for single releases), producer Neil Gabler padded the beginning with two instrumental sections.

A soft horn chorus opens the song, laying the way for the muted trumpet melody of Frankie Newton. Eddie Dougherty’s cymbals fill out the background.

Just when you think the song can’t get any sadder, the trumpet introduction gives on to Lenny White’s improvised piano line. With the other instruments silenced, the isolated piano sounds far away, like a pianist tickling the ivories late at night in an empty piano bar. Fittingly, the song is in B flat minor, a key which often conjures melancholy.

The arrangement maintains its simplicity after Billie Holiday comes in, creating space for the vocal line. Scattered piano and the trumpet continue quietly behind the voice—sometimes
doubling the vocal melody along with the brass accompaniment.

In line with the bare bones arrangement, Holiday’s delivery is understated, heightening the prominence of the lyrics, which are as stark as the arrangement is simple. 

The first couplet contrasts commonly held images of Dixie’s natural serenity with the ugly side of human nature revealed in the South:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root


The second couplet fills this contradiction out and makes the point of the lyrics grimly clear:

Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees


Once the thrust of the lyrics has been established, the solitary piano makes a brief re-appearance before the third and fourth couplets, which bring the human suffering inflicted even more clearly into focus:

Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin' eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin' flesh


Holiday’s voice generally keeps a plaintive tone until it rises in pitch at the end of the fifth couplet, letting out bottled up emotion:

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck


Rather than returning to the root note of B flat minor at the end like most pop songs, “Strange Fruit” ends on an F chord—an off-note or “unresolved” chord which could be seen to symbolize the incomprehensibility of lynching itself—as Holiday elongates the last word with a flourish.

For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop


***

“Strange Fruit” was a bold political statement, particularly for a black artist in segregated

America. As Samuel Grafton of the New York Post put it, “[Holiday] reversed the usual relationship between a black entertainer and her white audience: ‘I have been entertaining you,’ she seemed to say, ‘now you can just listen to me.’”

Despite the subject matter and the unwillingness of most radio stations to play “Strange Fruit,” it climbed to #16 on the national charts in July of 1939 and ended up selling a million copies.

In the years since, “Strange Fruit” hasn’t had the staying power with the general public that some of Holiday’s more hummable numbers have had, but it has received the imprimatur of the music community.

The song has been covered by a large variety of artists both in the jazz world (Nina Simone, Cassandra Wilson, Herbie Hancock) and out (Jeff Buckley, Sting, Annie Lennox, Siouxsie and the Banshees). 


It has been listed in the Recording Industry of America’s Songs of the Century and deemed one of “ten songs that actually changed the world” by Q magazine, a British rock publication.

When "Strange Fruit" was originally reviewed under the title “Strange Record” in 1939, a Time critic referred to Holiday as “a roly-poly young colored woman with a hump in her voice” who “does not care enough about her figure to watch her diet, but loves to sing.” The song itself was described as “a prime piece of musical propaganda” for the NAACP. Sixty years later, in 1999, Time named “Strange Fruit” the record of the century, reflecting both its greatness as a work of art and the song's role 
as a barometer for social progress in America.

Other civil rights writing by Dan Benbow:

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Road to the Mountaintop (about the speech King gave on the last night of his life)

Honest Abe Makes Sausage (a review of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln")

                                 Brown v. Board and Three Dog Night's "Black and White"

                         Actions, Not Words (a life review of Ollie Matson, an Olympic medal 

                         winner, NFL Hall-of-Famer, civil rights trailblazer, and good citizen) 

                                                       Follow Dan Benbow on Twitter                                                           

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"The Wrecking Crew"

"The Wrecking Crew" is an insider account of a dozen-odd Los Angeles studio musicians who put their stamp on some of the biggest pop hits of the 1960s. 

Like the session players profiled in "Muscle Shoals," "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," and "Twenty Feet from Stardom," most members of the Wrecking Crew are unknown to the general public: you've heard their handiwork countless times but would not recognize their names.   

In the mid-to-late '50s and '60s a clean division of labor was common in pop music production. Professional songwriters wrote arrangements, a name act (Elvis Presley, Connie Francis) laid down the lead vocal, and studio musicians did the rest. While the media coverage and public focus was exclusively on the pop star, a good deal of the creative work was done by musicians who received no songwriting credit and no financial compensation other than union scale wages. 

The Brill Building in mid-town Manhattan exemplified this compartmentalized production model. Staffed with professional songwriters who worked with New York studio
Brian Wilson and Hal Blaine
musicians, the Brill Building generated a string of hits in the first decade of rock 'n' roll, including "Yakety-Yak," "Do Wah Diddy," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Hound Dog,"

and "Leader of the Pack."

By the mid-'60s the pop world's center of gravity had shifted to Los Angeles. The California session players were looser than their New York counterparts. They preferred casual dress to the suit-and-tie attire customary in Manhattan. Where the New York session players tended to be faithful to the charts, the L.A. musicians were known to develop arrangements in the studio. The old guard said that the Los Angeles upstarts would "wreck" the music industry. 

The movie begins with footage from the "Pet Sounds" sessions in 1965, which were typical of the time. Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys' genius composer, was in the studio with the Wrecking Crew—while the other Beach Boys were on vacation. Other than Wilson's lead voice and the background vocals, all the tracks were filled by studio musicians. The same held true for many other Beach Boys releases of the era, including "Good Vibrations," a song crafted piece-by-piece in 25-30 sessions over three months. 


Wilson tended to work detailed arrangements out in advance, but some of the bands who used the Wrecking Crew allowed more experimentation. The Mamas & the Papas, a group of four vocalists, encouraged input from their backing musicians on the breakthrough hits "Monday, Monday" and "California Dreamin.'" 

Phil Spector, the '60s wunderkind producer of a slew of girl group hits, had another method of collaboration. Working with a small orchestra (four guitars, four pianos, two bass players) famously known as The Wall of Sound, Spector made the bands do so many takes that individual voices eventually merged into a cohesive whole. 




Other acts left most of the work to the Wrecking Crew. Roger McGuinn recounts that he was the sole member of the Byrds who was allowed to play an instrument on "Mr. Tambourine Man," to the resentment of his bandmates. Peter Tork showed up at the first Monkees recording session with his guitar, only to discover that his services weren't needed. Like the Monkees, the Association ("Windy," "Never My Love") contributed just vocals to their recordings.  

Woven through the movie are interviews with Wrecking Crew alumni, band members who recorded with them, and Dick Clark, who provides insight into the place of the Crew within the larger pop music industry. Some of the interviews give a human face to the creative process. Carole Kaye, the lone female in the Wrecking Crew, plays the bass line from the "Mission Impossible" theme song. Plas Johnson, a jazz musician who found his way to L.A. by way of New Orleans, blows the saxophone theme to "The Pink Panther" and the playful flute introduction to "Rockin' Robin." Chuck Berghofer demonstrates his signature opening bass line to "These Boots Are Made for Walking."  




It was a rewarding professional life that demanded versatility and a strong work ethic. As one interviewee put it, to continue to get called by the studios one had to "never say no until you're too busy to say yes." Often this required "dovetailing": bouncing from one session to another and backing acts as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Harry Nilsson, Herb Alpert, or the 5th Dimension. 

One trade-off was family time. Tommy Tedesco, whose son Denny made "The Wrecking Crew," frequently didn't get home until 10 or 11 at night. Plas Johnson said, "I'm a better 
grandfather than I was a father." 

Though there were exceptions, such as Steely Dan, reliance on studio musicians fell off in the late '60s and early '70s when most of the bands coming up featured skilled musicians who wrote their own songs. Work slowed down for the Wrecking Crew, other than Leon Russell and Glen Campbell,
Tommy Tedesco, once called
"the most recorded guitarist in history"
who pursued successful solo careers. Hal Blaine, the Wrecking Crew drummer who had played on six straight Grammy Award songs of the year (1966-1971), was working as a security guard by the early '80s. 

The contributions of these talented artists to the American pop canon would be lost to time were it not for the dogged efforts of DennyTedesco, who wrote, directed, and produced "The Wrecking Crew." 


Tedesco's labor of love began with interviews in 1996, just before his father passed away, and continued up through the dozens of individual screenings/fundraisers he held in recent years to purchase licensing rights to the songs, photos, and footage used. 

With all the bills paid, "The Wrecking Crew" is finally seeing the light of day. The little movie that could is garnering rave reviews as it brings the story of these undersold musicians to 120 screens nationwide. And not a moment too soon.

                                                         Follow Dan Benbow on Twitter  

Other "Truth and Beauty" film reviews:


"Honest Abe Makes Sausage" (about "Lincoln")

"Errol Morris Strikes Again" (about "Tabloid")





Thursday, March 12, 2015

Charles Bukowski: words to live by



                                       Follow Dan Benbow on Twitter                                 

                                 more Bukowski on Truth and Beauty:

                                      Charles Bukowski: "Born into This"

                              
Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

                            Charles Bukowski: So You Want to Be a Writer?

                                 Charles Bukowski Gets Life-Affirming

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Richard Linklater's "Boyhood"

                 Mason (Ellar Coltrane) in the beginning of "Boyhood"
Salon columnist Andrew Ohir was right to say that Richard Linklater’s new movie “isn’t quite like anything else in the history of cinema.”

Filmed in increments over a 12-year time span, “Boyhood” is the story of a small Texas family in a near-constant state of transition. The movie opens when the protagonist is in elementary school and ends when he goes to college. What makes “Boyhood” unique is that it keeps the same cast members all the way through; though the film is fictional, the children literally become young adults before our eyes. 

There’s no juiced up plot line and little in the way of eye candy (“Boyhood” was made for just four million dollars). The narrative unfolds organically, following the individual and family dynamics of Mason (first-time actor Ellar Coltrane), his older sister Samantha
Samantha (Lorelei Linklater)
(Linklater’s daughter Lorelei), and his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) as they struggle and grow through a series of life challenges. The passage of time is conveyed through changes in the characters’ appearances and landmark events
the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008

Mason, the main character, is something of a dreamer; the movie opens with him lying on the grass gazing up at the sky. Samantha is harder and more practical, a straight A student who is inextricably tied to her brother and often patronizing toward him. Olivia is a loving mother trying to raise her children to be good, well-rounded people while juggling professional growth and difficult partners

series of men pass through the children's lives. The mainstay—after a separation early onis Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), the fun, aimless parent who whisks the kids around on playful weekend outings in his classic GTO. 

A warm, humanistic glow suffuses “Boyhood.” The principals are sympathetic, three-
Olivia (Patricia Arquette)
dimensional characters and the movie effectively conveys both the joie de vivre of childhood (bedtime stories, Saturday morning cartoons, swing sets, trampolines, hide and seek) and the confusion (Mason and Samantha watch from a hidden distance as their parents fight without fully understanding what’s happening).


Numerous cultural references impart a feeling that the drivers and products of our imagination matter. The children dress up in character for a Harry Potter book signing. Star Wars” gets multiple mentions“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Breakfast of Champions” are name-checked. The lost art of tap dancing comes up. Mason Sr. is a musician; his son takes up photography

“Boyhood” also brims with the art of conversation, another Linklater specialty, the dialogue frequently seeking to enlighten us about the world rather than merely serve the plot. Among the philosophical asides are discussions of Pavlov, carpe diem, John Bowlby’s
Mason at the end of "Boyhood"
attachment theory, the dehumanizing effects of technology, and the meaning of life, which is passion, connection to something, anything. Follow your heart.


The power of “Boyhood” resides not in any individual element (e.g. a command performance, visual style, or dramatic event) but in the cumulative sweep of everyday life built up over 165 minutes. I didn’t walk out of the theater spellbound, but the movie has seeped into my bones in the three weeks since I saw it and left what I imagine will be a lasting imprint.

Twenty-five years into his career, critics are gushing over the versatile Linklater, who has remained cheerfully on the periphery of the film industry all these years with small, artsy indies. If the long list of awards received so far is any indication, “Boyhood” might just defy gravity and win best picture at the Oscars.

It would be nice to see the Academy honor one of America’s most original artists, but I don’t know that it would matter much to Linklater, for whom the biggest thrill seems to be the sheer joy of filmmaking.



                                                        

Sunday, January 25, 2015

An appreciation of “1984” as Eddie Van Halen turns 60

I was late to the party known as Van Halen.

Throughout most of their vintage period I listened to the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, top 40 radio. I saw the classic “Fair Warning” concert videos in the early ’80s on MTV, but the music didn’t stick; hard rock wasn’t yet part of my musical palette. 

The gateway drug was “Jump,” Van Halen’s only number one record. Released as a single and a video at the tail end of 1983, the song opened my ears to the band. 

By spring, “1984” was the high-adrenaline soundtrack that got my blood pumping before I walked out on the court as a freshman on the varsity tennis team. My doubles partner, a drummer on the side, had the bug too: he expertly mimicked Alex Van Halen in a pair of air band contests. The growing success of the
Eddie Van Halen flying high in 1984
with his first number one single
  album paralleled the excitement of a season in
 which we won the conference title.

By May, Van Halen was my favorite band. A cassette of “1984” or one of its five predecessors was in regular rotation on my $20 boom box. Filled with the zeal of the newly converted, I scrawled the boss Van Halen logo on notebooks, the inside of bathroom stalls, the back of desks, anywhere I had the time and space to spread the Gospel. 

It wasn't long before VH invaded my household. When we got our first family dog, I started calling the unnamed beagle Eddie. My parents initially agreed to the name as a placeholder only, but it ended up sticking.

That summer, my younger brother (at left) got in the act. With black hair, natural six pack abs, and boyish good looks, he was a fitting stand-in for Eddie Van Halen as he launched off our ottoman with a cardboard guitar. (Years later, he still had the bug, using “Panama” in a video shoot with his friends in Africa.)

In July of 1984, the circus came to town. The Velcros opened the concert; they’re still bragging about opening for Van Halen thirty years later. Amid a spectacle of lights and stage mounts and stimuli, David Lee Roth told us we were the best audience he’d seen in the last 99 shows. Out on the floor, I had my first kiss with a girl who invited me back to her hotel after the show, the same hotel name-checked on the back jacket of Van Halen II.

Nine months later, Roth left the band. The party was over.    

***

Decades passed. Other than a brief revival of Van Halen infatuation in the early ’90s (during a period of intense devotion to the electric guitar) the band mostly fell off my radar as my
Business time.
tastes veered toward ’50s and ’60s jazz, Frank Zappa, Funkadelic, Laura Nyro, soul, baroque classical, instrumental world music, an ongoing dose of
60s/’70s rock. As my listening habits changed, my six-string sensibility gravitated away from the technical playing that dominated the ’80s to the electric blues (Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan in particular). Even so, I slowly acquired the first six Van Halen CD’sjust in case.

The separation ended in 2013, during an especially challenging time in my life. As if dipping my toes in the water, I put just a handful of tunes from each Roth album on my iPod.

Soon I was hooked all over again. For months the band provided aural therapy as I crossed San Francisco sidewalks, the music mainlined into my ears loud and clear. With 25 years of electric guitar under my belt, I appreciated Eddie’s innovative sound(s) in a way I hadn’t before.

I’ve been a born again fan ever since. It feels like we never parted, as if we've been joined
in a continuous line running from the moment I cracked the plastic on my "1984"
cassette up to the present. Looking back from the vantage point of 2015, the final album with David Lee Roth represents a crossroads for this listener. Working from his home studio
and freed of the shackles of hit-centric producer Ted Templeman, Eddie created an entire album’s worth of original material, a major achievement in itself and a big step up after the covers-heavy “Diver Down.”

And yet, the synthesizer-based tunes on "1984" not only sound dated (in the way that ’80s production values sound dated), but they remind me of the sappy, formula pop songs the band did with Sammy Hagar which made me lose interest in Van Halen.

I love “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher.” They’re kinetic, well-crafted songs that have stood the test of time. But like "Stairway to Heaven" or "Layla," I’ve heard them too many times to count. 

What remains freshest in my ears are The Big Four: four guitar-oriented album tracks which connect me with the life force that put the mighty in The Mighty Van Halen.

Closing side 1 of “1984” in grand fashion are “Top Jimmy” and “Drop Dead Legs.” Before I knew who the real Top Jimmy was, I thought the song might be a veiled ode to the virtuosic Eddie, who makes his mark from the opening with ethereal harmonics counterpointed by a slashing riff, as a volume swell trills in the background. The verses have a swing that could only exist in the Roth era. The solo opens with a patented Eddie whale shriek and ends with a quivering tremolo dive that sounds like it’s falling down a mine shaft.


Recently accused of helping cause Ebola, “Drop Dead Legs” has a lumbering beast of a main riff (modeled on “Back in Black”) that is pure Van Halen strut. The MXR Phase 90 tone Eddie opens with is pristine, the drumming simple and powerful. The last minute-and-a half—tacked on after the rest of the song was already recorded—is a singular outro inspired by Allan Holdsworth. After vamping for a spell, Eddie breaks away from his typically disciplined pop-length solos with a smorgasbord of shapes and colors and sounds, a rare display of Van Halen's free-form side.


The other two tunes on my active playlist are the closers on side 2, “Girl Gone Bad” and “House of Pain.” The former, which Eddie wrote in a hotel closet while Valerie Bertinelli was sleeping in the room, is an advanced composition that clocks in at 4:30. The wealth of ideas begins with Eddie tapping harmonics high on the neck while holding chords (with the same notes) at the low end as Alex taps insistently on the hi-hat, then the ride. The verses are short and to the point and transition—with Roth’s Tarzan yowls—into a fresh interlude at 2:16. The rest is gravy: following a soft landing from the solo into Eddie’s arpeggiated lines, the opening theme re-appears en route to another pass through the chorus. Alex brings down the curtain with a sweeping flourish that drops into a Rototom-and-kick drum stomp. 


My favorite tune on “1984” is “House of Pain,” a song with distinctly Rothian tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The crushing main riff alone is worth the price of admission. Transitioning from the opening riff into the first verse, Eddie maintains the hard edge with a propulsive rhythm guitar line. The solo proper is merely a prelude to the outro solo at 1:42, introduced with a screeching pick slide capped by a taut snare hit. What follows is a heady demonstration of the musical telepathy a drummer and guitarist working in tandem for 15 years can generate. Over Alex’s driving beat Eddie conjures a wicked assortment of squeals, howls, dive bomber sounds, and serrated blues licks. He comes out of the squall into a boogie blues riff doubled by a vocal line, a final dance with Diamond Dave before Eddie, Alex, and Michael Anthony march one of posterity's most kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll bands over and out for the last time.  


A lot of the music I listened to in the ’80s seems like a guilty pleasure now, but Roth-era Van Halen still feels vibrant. And no one since has re-calibrated the sonic possibilities of rock guitar the way Eddie Van Halen did. As a player, I haven’t found a way to incorporate his space age techniques into my straight ahead blues style, but as a listener, I remain in awe.

Happy 60th, Eddie. 

*** 

         Follow Dan Benbow on Twitter            

                                              More Van Halen at Truth and Beauty

                                       Eddie Van Halen's "Fair Warning":  an appreciation

                                   Great Guitar Solos, #4:  Dweezil Zappa Nails "Eruption"

                              Eddie Van Halen, Jan Hammer, and Tony Levin—on One Stage 
                                           features live footage of Eddie doing "Cathedral" (solo) and 
                                          "Hot for Teacher" with two fusion virtuosos 

                                Avery Molek. Seven-year-old drummer. includes performance
                                    videos of Avery doing "Hot for Teacher" and "Girl Gone Bad"