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Rolling Stone magazine named Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitarist in history.
Here is their top 10 list:
1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Eric Clapton
3. Jimmy Page
4. Keith Richards
5. Jeff Beck
6. B.B. King
7. Chuck Berry
8. Eddie Van Halen
9. Duane Allman
10. Pete Townshend
Would love to hear your thoughts on this list. Who would you add or delete?
Lists like this always miss great players entirely or rank them in ways people completely disagree with. I personally think these lists are fundamentally flawed from the git go. It’s not possible for anyone to know every single guitar player well enough to really judge who’s the best. If you asked me to rank the top 100 best guitarist of all time, I think I’d have to spend the next 10 years listening to albums, and watching videos. There are so many amazing players that just totally blow my mind, I’m not sure I could choose. BTW where were are all the jazz and classical players on this list? I guess we’ll need separate lists for those guys.
There’s no way to objectively measure how good one guitar player is compared to another. Sure its easy to tell who’s a great player, and who should take up a different instrument. But when you start comparing “great” players it becomes very subjective. Each guitar player has their own style. For example, if you asked me to compare BB King with Eddie Van Halen I really couldn’t do it. They are both great, but totally different types of music and playing styles.
Then there’s personal taste. Everyone likes something different. You and I may really dig Eric Clapton or B.B. King, but someone else may think they are just “okay” or even worse. What happens when you start talking and comparing guitarist that are equally talented, or more so, but not as well known or commercial successful? Everyone has a different opinion, and that’s how it should be. Everyone is free to like who ever they want to. No matter how good a guitar player is, not everyone is going to like them. And no matter how good a list is, not everyone is going to agree with it.
So, do I agree with the top 10 list? No, I don’t. I haven’t sat down with the top 100 list yet, and I may, or may not. But I’m willing to bet I would not agree with that list either. As far as the top 10 list goes, I was surprised that Keith Richards, Chuck Berry and Pete Townsend made the top 10. All great players, but they would not have been on my top 10 list. Either would Jimmy Page. Nothing against Page, he’s just not one of my favorites. And, as much as I love and admire his playing, I would not have put B.B. King on the list either. He’s one of the greatest blues artists ever, and I listen to him a lot, but I would not list him as the #6 best guitarist in history. Every person on the Rolling Stone top 10 list is a great guitar player. They each offer something unique that they do/did better than the others. We should appreciate all guitar players for their unique capabilities, playing styles and types of music.
With that said, am I against publishing these lists? After what I just said you may be surprised by my answer, no. These list are a good thing. They make us think, share and learn. People get all riled up and argue who’s better than so and so. This is good. It makes us think about other players, and examine who we really like. It makes us listen to artists we may nave never listened to before. We learn more about music and the people that make it great, and that’s a very, very good thing. Music is a language, and everyone speaks it differently . . . we need to make sure we continue to communicate.