The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Players whose talents, attitude and style have made the guitar the coolest instrument ever.
Born October 29, 1949
Band Iggy and the Stooges, Iggy Pop
Iconic Guitar Gibson Les Paul Custom
Coolest Riff "Search and Destroy"—Raw Power (Iggy and the Stooges)
James Williamson was the man who facilitated Iggy Pop’s transition from self-lacerating Stooges frontman to solo artist, icon and all-around elder statesman of punk. In a way, Williamson was the only man for the job. He shared Iggy and the Stooges’ Detroit garage rock roots and was a friend of Stooges founding guitarist Ron Asheton during the mid Sixties.
But he also had his act way more together than any of the Stooges during their cataclysmic heyday. By the early Seventies, the Stooges were two albums into their career and starting to come apart at the seams due to myriad drug problems and an overall lack of widespread commercial acceptance of their music.
Williamson injected new life into the group, bringing an ideal balance of discipline and frenzy, best heard on the group’s 1973 disc Raw Power, the album that launched thousands of punk and post punk bands. “I’m his biggest fan,” the legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr once said of Williamson. “He has the technical ability of Jimmy Page without being as studious and the swagger of Keith Richards without being sloppy. He’s both demonic and intellectual, almost how you would imagine Darth Vader to sound if he was in a band.”
Williamson went on to produce and play on Iggy’s classic solo 1979 album New Values, which features gems like “I’m Bored” and “Five Foot One.” The guitarist also played a key role on the follow-up disc, Soldier, anchoring a punk rock all-star lineup that included ex-Pistol Glen Matlock, Ivan Kral from the Patti Smith Band and Barry Adamson from Magazine. Shortly after Soldier, Williamson took a hiatus from rock to study electronic engineering, becoming Vice President of Technology and Standards for Sony.
When Ron Asheton died, Williamson took an early retirement from Sony and returned to his rightful place as the Stooges’ guitarist. Their new album, Ready to Die, came out this year.
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