Image from www.fromthevaultradio.org. Thanks.
I remember the first time I heard about him, his name was pronounced ‘Lay Paul’ to me, and it was a while before I figured he wasn’t French, and his name didn’t mean, literally, ‘The Paul’. The next thing I heard was how he asked the doctors to set his right arm (shattered in an accident) in a permanent guitar-playing position. This was good stuff – a tribal rite that impressed the hell out of a 16-year-old wannabe guitar player. Endurance of great pain and a deliberate deformation just so one could keep playing? Wow. This guy was way cool.
I didn’t know about his contributions to multitrack recording and effects (delay, reverb, etc) till I started mucking about with recording myself. But I did know that without the Les Paul Log, I would probably be playing a very different kind of electric guitar. For so many of us who believe we are defined by the instruments we play, that’s really something.
The Gibson Les Paul, much like the Fender Stratocaster, is one of the most enduring images of modern rock and pop music. It’s a quintessential ‘electric guitar’. With it, you can change the world. With it, you can wail, growl, cry, scream, beg, and love. At least, that’s how it still feels.
I heard about his passing just after a gig. A good gig, I might add, where we felt we’d played our hearts out. A gig where I didn’t play my Les Paul guitar, but where I played an electric guitar nonetheless, which means some tribute was paid to his genius. I think that many other musicians around the world would have heard the news in very similar circumstances. And I think most of them would have thought or said something like “Thanks Les! You lived well. Have a good one at that big electric gig up there!”
Thanks, Les. Took a while to learn how to say your name right, but to me, you’ll still be ‘The Paul’.