Canadian-born Joni Mitchell originally intended to be a fine artist and considered herself a hobbyist musician in the early Sixties, occasionally playing paid gigs to support her painting studies. That all changed by the mid Sixties, when personal issues inspired her to channel her thoughts into music that would soon be covered by folk artists like Tom Rush and Judy Collins.
Pete Townshend is a killer tunesmith who has penned such rock classics as “My Generation,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” But the Who guitarist and band leader is also among the most skilled and influential rock rhythm players in history.
The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” performed entirely by Paul McCartney using his Martin D-28, was released on the 1968 album The Beatles (commonly referred to as the White Album). From a guitar standpoint, the song’s roots and inspiration can be traced back to McCartney’s early experimentation with a well-known piece by J.S. Bach titled “Bourée in E Minor,” which he woodshedded in his youth.
John Denver began his career in folk groups in the Sixties and had chart success as a songwriter, but it was the sweet sounds of his Seventies solo records that made him a household name. Hits like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Annie’s Song” and “Rocky Mountain High” helped bring folk, pop and country to the commercial forefront that decade. Though he was often dismissed for his wholesome, clean-cut image, Denver was undeniably a stellar tunesmith and a fantastic fingerpicker.
Chet Atkins made countless recordings as a studio musician, producer and solo artist. Many of his recordings — particularly those of the artists he produced in Nashville, like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers — laid the foundation for early rock and roll.
Of the four Beatles, George Harrison brought to the group an assortment of electric and acoustic guitar approaches, flavors influenced by everyone from Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins to the Byrds and Bob Dylan.
In the late Fifties, Brazilian guitarist/pianist/vocalist Antonio Carlos Jobim took his fascination with jazz harmony and the guitar compositions of Heitor Villa-Lobos, combined it with influences as varied as composers like Debussy, Chopin, Ravel and Rachmaninoff, and helped give birth to a whole new style: bossa nova. (Translated from Portuguese, bossa nova means the “new way of doing” something.) This fresh-sounding, über-groovy, guitar-centric music (typically played on a nylon-string acoustic, accompanying a vocalist) required fluid fingerstyle chops, flawless time feel, a command of seventh and extended/altered chords—what’s known as “upper-structure harmony”—and the ability to improvise.
"Jeff Buckley release only one full-length studio album in his lifetime, 1994's Grace," writes Dale Turner, "but in the 15 years since his passing on May 29, 1997, his influence endures, often cited as an inspiration by artist like Radiohead, Chris Cornell, Muse, Coldplay and a host of newer acts."