A few distractions from unexpected guitarists

With so many things happening in the world, we could use a few distractions. The following music factoids on some interesting guitar collaborations are quite unimportant, but may bring a moment of relief and reflection.

Joe Cocker covered several songs making them his own with his unusual style, including The Beatles’ “Little Help from my Friends.” What I just learned this week, the beautiful guitar lead-in to and throughout the song was played by none other than Jimmy Page. Page had left The Yardbirds and had not started Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant.

– Speaking of great lead guitarists, Jeff Beck, who also played with The Yardbirds and with several famous performers like Rod Stewart, Mick Jaggar, Tina Turner et al, was captured in a collaboration on a very famous song with a Motown star. Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” has a pulsating and memorable guitar riff throughout, played by Beck.

– Another guitar collaboration married a very talented songwriter and performer by the name of Michael Jackson with lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen. Jackson’s famous song “Beat it” has a Beck-like guitar riff and solo player by Van Halen, whose own band is quite successful.

Eric Clapton is arguably the best known guitarist in the world. He also played briefly     with The Yardbirds – an amazing line-up of guitar talent. Before he died, Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers joined with Clapton on his most famous song “Layla.” Allman was an expert slide guitarist, so he played the plaintiff crying sound on “Layla” for the last half of the song.

– Finally, although not quite the capable guitarists as the above players, two other famous musicians played on “Carolina in my Mind,” James Taylor’s song. Taylor was signed by Apple Records, which was The Beatles’ self-created label. Needing a bassist and additional guitarist, Paul McCartney and George Harrison decided to do the honors for Taylor. That was quite the set of studio musicians for the 18 year old Taylor.

I find these collaborations fascinating. When I learned of them much later than when the songs were hits, I enjoyed the songs even more. Give them a listen and hear past the singer for the guitar sound. There are some famous fingers strumming along in these songs making them even more memorable.

9 thoughts on “A few distractions from unexpected guitarists

  1. Note to Readers: I mention three guitarists who all played for The Yardbirds. Eric Clapton left the band on the day their most popular song was released “For your love.” The band was moving away from the blues influence that he wanted and coveted. He recommended Jimmy Page to replace him, but Page deferred to Jeff Beck. When the bassist got ill, Page filled in and then later took over for Beck when he got ill. Beck rejoined them and he and Page made a dynamic, innovative duo. It should be noted that all three guitarists are usually in the list of top five guitarists for rock-n-roll.

  2. Note to Readers: Another interesting collaboration is David Bowie hired this up and coming guitarist by the name of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vaughan played on a several songs of Bowie’s before leaving to make it his own way. To me, Vaughan is one of the finest guitarists to ever play and his body of work has substance, even though his career was cut short by a helicopter crash. He was influenced by Albert King, Hounddog Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, etc.

    • Lisa, I did not know this. Thanks for sharing that tidbit and the video. My guess is many a star paid similar dues. When The Eagles’ Glen Frey died, it was noted he was a guitarist in Bob Seger’s band. Keith

  3. Such good memories…I like Brian May too…he is one of the classic guitarists with all the other names you have mentioned Keith. One of my favourite Queen Songs is ‘I Want to Break Free.’ The video of Freddie Mercury in drag has always made me laugh.

    • Colette, I agree he is an underrated guitarist. Didn’t he also get a doctorate in physics after the band waned? We love Queen here, even our kids. Thanks for sharing your favorite. Keith

      • Yes, Dr. Brian May is an Astrophysist, Rock Star, and also has a Stereoscope business/hobby. In addition he started a political movement called the Commonsense Revolution, and he has a wildlife rescue sanctuary at his home to rescue injured wild foxes, badgers, etc. He became a vegetarian a few years ago in a response for his love of animals. Few people also know that his mentor, Sir Patrick Moore (of ‘The Sky at Night’ fame) became destitute towards the end of his life. Brian May purchased his house so that Patrick could live out his life in peace. Mr. May is a kind person who speaks out against injustice…often lending his support to anti hunting groups and the governmental badger culling programs.

  4. Note to Readers: A guitarist who has made a career of working with various singers is Carlos Santana. One of the great compliments of this man is the number of artists who flocked to sing with him. His musicality and collaborative skills made him such an approachable artist. Keith

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