Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul

Les Paul passed away today. He was 94.

I can't even begin to describe his life, because it was epic beyond all description. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article:
Mr. Paul was a remarkable musician as well as a tireless tinkerer. He played guitar alongside leading prewar jazz and pop musicians from Louis Armstrong to Bing Crosby. In the 1930s he began experimenting with guitar amplification, and by 1941 he had built what was probably the first solid-body electric guitar, although there are other claimants. With his guitar and the vocals of his wife, Mary Ford, he used overdubbing, multitrack recording and new electronic effects to create a string of hits in the 1950s.

...He also noticed that by playing along with previous recordings, he could become a one-man ensemble. As early as his 1948 hit “Lover,” he made elaborate, multilayered recordings, using two acetate disc machines, which demanded that each layer of music be captured in a single take. From discs he moved to magnetic tape, and in the late 1950s he built the first eight-track multitrack recorder. Each track could be recorded and altered separately, without affecting the others. The machine ushered in the modern recording era.

That's just scratching the surface--he'd done all that more than fifty years ago!

One more thing about Les Paul: He was a badass. In 1948, he was in a serious car wreck. Here's story:
Among his many injuries, his right elbow was shattered; once set, it would be immovable for life. Mr. Paul had it set at an angle, slightly less than 90 degrees, so that he could continue to play guitar.

Bad ass fact #2: he still had a weekly gig--at age 94.

It's a sad day for music.

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