Posted by: Charlie | August 21, 2009

The Guitar That Changed The World

The Guitar That Changed the WorldWe are all indebted to the late Les Paul who passed last week at the age of ninety-four. A musician, inventor and entrepreneur, Paul’s legacy is definitive to American culture and the world of recorded music. As Paul said in his last interview with the New York Times, he was “born with all these things yet to do that haven’t been done.”

His secret: living in the present.

Paul was the inventor of one of the 20th centuries greatest disruptive technologies. While playing guitar in a house band, he was too quiet and left out of the mix. Unheard, he was inspired to tear apart some electronics and invent the solid body electric guitar and then the 8-track recorder. Without his guitar or multitask recoreder we wouldn’t have The Beatles, Beastie Boys or Bjorke. We wouldn’t have the CD, MP3, or iPod for that matter.

Multitrack recording has given global musicians a new voice and entrepreneurial spirit. Paul Simon’s Graceland first opened the west to the sounds of South Africa, bringing together dozens of. More recently The Very Best and MIA have shared a new melange of world music, hip hop, and dance music embedded with deep social messages.

Changing the world of music, Paul made a small fortune. With his early financial success Paul retired to a life with his family. But like the Entrepreneurs in “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good,” Paul would not settle on a single success, he heard sounds yet to be made.

Restless, Paul divorced, went back to the studio, won a Grammy, patented 20 new inventions, and eventually ended up in Manhattan to play a weekly gig until his last days. Each success was built on his desire to make the best sounds and to be the loudest, but not necessarily heard by the most people.

Paul played for himself and the few friends that cared the most. He chose to played small clubs where “no ones going to pick on me cause I’m nobody.” His journey through life was a strict passion for creating in the present, not worrying about a legacy or long term return. But we have much to owe in return for his passion and for the guitar that changed the world.

(At the very least, if it weren’t for Les Paul, we would not have shared the awkward middle school last dance to Stairway to Heaven  – recorded on tape through Jimmy Page’s custom Gibson Les Paul).


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