Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul Dies

When one has reached the age of 94, it can hardly be a surprise when that person dies.

Somehow, though, it always seemed — to me, anyway — that Les Paul would defy the odds.

Well, no one lives forever. And Les Paul died today of complications from pneumonia.

The world has lost one of the most important guitarists and innovators it has ever seen.

But his musical innovations may well live forever. Even if they don't, though, they won't soon be forgotten.

As Jon Pareles wrote for the New York Times, Paul was a "tireless tinkerer." In fact, he was more than a tinkerer. He was a pioneer who developed the solid–body electric guitar, giving rock 'n' roll music its distinctive sound.

The sound was adapted to other musical forms, though, and today, it is no longer the exclusive domain of rock 'n' roll. Just about any genre that includes an electric guitar utilizes the solid–body electric guitar.

That isn't even considering his many other musical innovations. It is safe to say that modern music wouldn't sound the same if Les Paul hadn't come along.

And he was here for a remarkably long time. Most of us can only hope to still be around at the age of 94. Not only was Les Paul still around, he was still making music. I've heard he was still playing the Iridium Jazz Club in New York on Monday nights, and I know he played at Carnegie Hall four years ago — when he was 90.

The world is a poorer place because Les Paul is gone. But it is a far wealthier place because he was here.