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More Greatness Gone

Fusion hero Allan Holdsworth passes away at 70

By Gary Graff
April 17, 2017

The guitar world took another hit on Sunday as news spread about the passing of Allan Holdsworth at the age of 70.

No cause of death was revealed for the British guitar legend — who Eddie Van Halen once told Guitar Player was “the best, in my book” — but his daughter Louise posted a message on Facebook saying that: “It is with heavy hearts that we notify everyone of the passing of our beloved father. We would appreciate privacy and time while we grieve the loss of our dad, grandad, friend and musical genius. We will update close friends and family when service arrangements have been made and will notify the public of an open memorial service, which all would be welcome. We are undeniably still in shock with his unexpected death and cannot begin to put into words the overwhelming sadness we are experiencing. He is missed tremendously.”

Born in Bradford, England, Holdsworth was an acknowledged influence by rock and jazz guitarists alike, including the likes of Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, Richie Kotzen, John Petrucci, Rush’s Alex Lifeson and many others. Frank Zappa told Guitar World Holdsworth was “one of the most interesting guys on guitar on the planet,” while Robben Ford called him “the John Coltrane of the guitar” in Guitar Edge.

Holdsworth’s first recording, with the band Igginbottom, came out in 1969, and over the years he worked with Soft Machine, the New Tony Williams Lifetime, Jean-Luc Ponty, Bruford, the all-star supergroup U.K., Stanley Clarke, Krokus, Level 42 and others.

Holdsworth also released a dozen solo albums, getting a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for 1983’s Road Games. Two years later, he released Atavachron, which featured Holdsworth’s pioneering work with the SynthAxe, a midi-controlled guitar instrument that he used throughout the rest of his career. Holdsworth’s last released was 2015’s Tales From The Vault, which he funded with a PledgeMusic campaign. He also had signature guitar lines with Ibanez and Carvin, and during the ‘90s invented a beer pump called The Fuzzbuster.

Tributes began pouring in as soon as Holdsworth’s death was announced on Sunday. Vernon Reid posted two messages, noting that: “Guitarists as varied as George Benson & Eddie Van Halen recognized #AllanHoldsworth as a peer & master in his own right” and that: “EVERY guitarist who had his Mind Blown by #AllanHoldsworth should make his passing. Trend. We owe him So Much More than that much.”

Alex Skolnick called it a “Huge loss. true genius. His music went over heads at times (mine 2 admittedly) but brilliant uncompromising & impactful.” Drummer Mike Portnoy tweeted a message calling Holdsworth “One of the all-time greats and innovators…no Holdsworth = no Eddie Van Halen.”

The Seymour Duncan company tweeted that it was “Devastated by the loss of our friend…Rest in peace, Allan,” and the Musicians Institute wrote that: “Your influence will resonate through the history of music forever.”