The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Players whose talents, attitude and style have made the guitar the coolest instrument ever.
Born July 15, 1952 (died April 23, 1991)
Band New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, Gang War
Iconic Guitar Gibson Les Paul Jr.
Coolest Riff "Chinese Rocks" — Blank Generation: The New York Scene (1975-78) (The Heartbreakers)
Johnny Thunders’ snot-nosed New York take on Keith Richards’ cool is one of the pillars on which punk rock was built. An Italian-American guy (birth name John Anthony Genzale Jr.) from Queens, he was born a little too late to be part of the Sixties rock explosion. But the bands of that era were his influences, and he put his own spin on them in the early Seventies as the New York Dolls came together with Thunders on lead guitar.
Thunders had the riffs to match the glam-trash group’s mascara. He took rock guitar and cooked it down to its essence, playing open chords and switchblade riffs that laid bare the amphetamine urgency behind the Dolls’ concise, catchy tunes. The Dolls had split up by the time punk rock got underway in New York and London, but their influence was profoundly felt on both shores.
Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols has repeatedly cited Thunders as a major influence, Dee Dee Ramone was a friend, colleague and drug brother, and Richard Hell played alongside him in the Heartbreakers. While Thunders shared Keith Richards’ appetite for excess, he sadly was not blessed with Keef’s monumental endurance.
Thunders died in New Orleans in 1991 under mysterious, although most likely drug-related, circumstances.
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