The “number one” guitarist of all time, according to Neil Young

Neil Young

When the legendary Neil Young speaks, the music business listens. Despite having a soft voice, Young has always been direct and confident in his incisive observations. In addition, he has a gift for language that comes through in both his songs and his insightful comments. But perhaps a lesser-known but no less important skill is his superb guitar playing.

Young is an expert in tonality and melody. Even though he may not be the most visually appealing man behind the axe, “Cotez the Killer” is proof positive that he can make a guitar sing along to his tale. His opinions on other guitarists are made even more intriguing by this and his outspoken demeanour. Furthermore, regarding the finest guitarist  of all, he simply can’t look beyond Jimi Hendrix.

Even though Young is in his 70s, his artistic talent never fades and remains the same vice it did when he first began. With close-up encounters with the great, the bad, and the ugly of contemporary music history, “Shakey” has witnessed almost everything there is to see. He has experienced nearly everything in the world of rock music. But nothing has astounded him as seeing Jimi Hendrix, who Young regards as being completely alone and on a pedestal.

Together, the two performers took part in the first Woodstock Festival in 1969, and throughout that historic weekend, they each left their mark on history. Young remarked in a humorous way, “Trying to get there to play was one of the things I remember about Woodstock.” “It turns out that Jimi Hendrix and I were on a charter plane that took off from the wrong airport.”

He went on, “A helicopter was supposed to pick us up.” We had no way to get to the concert because the roads were congested and the airport was deserted. Thus, as we stand at the airport with attorney Melvin Belli, we are attempting to determine our next course of action. And this pickup truck is stolen by Melvin Belli from the airport.

Jimi, Melvin, and I are the three of us in this stolen pickup truck trying to get to the Woodstock concert to play. He continues in his hilarious memory of trying to join the 500,000 “very friendly” people there. That’s the main thing I recall about Woodstock.

His most lasting impression of Hendrix as a man and a guitarist was that crazy weekend. He’s in his own league for Young on both counts. Superstar guitarists were very popular in the 1960s, and there were many outstanding guitarists of the time. Nobody could match the sheer magnitude of Hendrix’s unwavering ability. Some could argue for Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, or even Young’s bandmate, Stephen Stills. That is, at least, Neil Young’s claim, and it is difficult to disagree with him.

Hendrix was the greatest at using his guitar to express himself,” Young recalled in a 2005 interview with the Musicians Hall of Fame. Hendrix was, in my opinion, the best guitarist of the 1960s when it came to pushing the guitar to new heights. No other guitarist could match Hendrix’s mastery of playing rock ‘n’ roll in a trio with the guitar, bass, and drums.

“He was so unique, he had his own place,” he went on. The experience was that of Jimi Hendrix. No other trio matched The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The way the drummer, bassist, and guitarist played together created that unique sound. That’s possibly the secret to Hendrix in and of himself. He was a formidable soloist and bandleader who mixed cutting-edge technique with genuine hits.

After giving his excellent review, Young said, “Jimi wasn’t the same when he played with other bands.” What transpired when he played with those guys gave him the freedom to express himself and visit those locations. The music of those areas underwent a noticeable shift that helped advance the fusion of genres. However, no one has ever matched that shift when it comes to technicality.

In all honesty, Jimi Hendrix’s greatness is undeniable, despite the subjective nature of music. But as Young skillfully noted, Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, and Chas Chandler elevated Hendrix to a new level of brilliance. In turn, peers such as Young quietly influenced him.

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