The recent unfortunate news of Allan Holdsworth’s passing has been a shock to the whole Guitar Community. If you are a fan of his work or not its impossible to deny the mans unparalleled skill, creativity and message with the electric guitar. Beyond the technicalities of his playing and music, there is a lot to learn from Allan’s approach to being a musician. His view of the guitar as just a took to create the music that he hears in his head and spending time working on sounding like yourself rather than copying anyone else are two ideas that resonated with me heavily since I first discovered him in my very early twenties. I am going to share with you my humble experiences of Holdsworths music in this article, I would love to hear some of your experiences of Holdsworths music.
I personally discovered him through hearing other players talk about him…this was a time where I had never listened to much fusion style music, hearing Holdsworth for the first time was a huge leap for my ears. I loved it and without really realising became obsessed with the vibe and feel his music had on me. I had no idea what he was doing, but that didn’t matter at all, he was painting unusual soundscapes that took my imagination to different places. From Holdsworth I discovered a whole world of jazz-rock-fusion guitar players who really opened up a whole world of new inspiration to me. Everything from his technical approach to his melodic/chordal approach inspired me as a technician, and his humble view of his own music and place in the guitar world really spoke to me as someone who has never really fitted in musically. I am not putting two and two together here however as Holdsworth has gone on to inspire tons of incredible guitarists.
I was fortunate enough to see him play in a local seaside town called Hastings here on the Southcoast UK. It was a small theatre and he was playing as a 3 piece band. There were probably about 20 people including myself in the audience. We had a really special low key gig with him. A tall Irish gentleman came and sat in the row of seats in front of me, it was Gary Moore. There were two incredible guitar legends in that room that night, it felt very special. Allan’s records sound excellent and I personally love his live performance recordings. However seeing and hearing him in the flesh was perhaps the best thing ever. His playing was on fire, however in between songs he would apologise for his playing and say how out of practice he was. He was very human and humble, however he had this genius ability to play guitar like he was from an alien planet, a parallel often made by people talking about Holdsworth.
As with most legendary guitarists, people often imitate but never get close. This is due to the nature of being human, but there are a whole host of modern players who have been positively inspired by Allan in creating their own unique voice in the Guitar World.
May his influence continue longer and like Allan, may people continue to push themselves to be the best version of themselves possible.