Allan Holdsworth, Influential Guitar Virtuoso, Dead at 70

Allan Holdsworth, an influential jazz and prog-rock guitarist who has graced the cover of Guitar World magazine, died Sunday (April 16), according to a touching Facebook post by his daughter, Louise Holdsworth. He was 70.

"It is with heavy hearts that we notify everyone of the passing of our beloved father," Louise wrote. "We would appreciate privacy and time while we grieve the loss of our dad, granddad, friend and musical genius.

"We will update close friends and family when service arrangements have been made and will notify the public of an open memorial service, which all would be welcome. We are undeniably still in shock with his unexpected death and cannot begin to put into words the overwhelming sadness we are experiencing. He is missed tremendously —Louise, Sam, Emily & Rori."

A memorial funding page can be found here.

Holdsworth, whose career began in the Seventies, worked with several influential jazz-fusion and progressive-rock bands, including Tempest and Soft Machine, before being brought to the attention of major label execs by Eddie Van Halen in the early Eighties.

Holdsworth released more than a dozen solo albums, many of which feature the SynthAxe, a rare fretted MIDI controller. Guitarists including Van Halen, Tom Morello and Frank Zappa cited him as an influence. Holdsworth also played in U.K., a British supergroup founded by King Crimson singer and bassist John Wetton and Yes drummer Bill Bruford, although he departed the band very early.

As several guitarists have noted over the decades, when Holdsworth played, it almost didn’t sound like a guitar. His speed and wide intervalic playing were something new—and then there was his incredible stretches and use of four-note-per-string fingerings to create unbelievable-sounding runs.

Holdsworth was the inspiration for several popular lessons, including "Channel Allan Holdsworth with Four-Note-Per-String Scales" and "Sick Licks: An Allan Holdsworth-Inspired Pentatonic Run."

Scores of guitarists have posted social-media tributes to Holdsworth, including Alex Skolnick, who wrote (via Twitter), "Huge loss, true genius. His music went over heads at times (mine too, admittedly) but brilliant uncompromising and impactful."

Vernon Reid wrote, "Every guitarist who had his mind blown by Allan Holdsworth should make his passing trend.' We owe him so much more than that."

FOR MORE TRIBUTES (from Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and more), HEAD HERE.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.