This Canadian singer-songwriter was born in Alberta in the 40s and is our first female on the list. Mitchell’s very singular tuning-style helped maximize the sounds in each and every chord. Drawing from a mixture of genres, she enjoyed folk, pop, rock, and jazz, and her songs often focused on social and environmental issues, as well as her personal take on love, confusion, disillusionment, and joy.
Towing nine Grammy awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she’s been hailed as “one of the greatest songwriters ever.” What makes Mitchell so unique is her ability to write songs with the same chords, but in different tunings – one song had 50 different variations! Would you believe that at 75 years of age she’s still performing? What a legend!
Brian May, the legendary guitarist of Queen, has got quite an interesting back story. Born in London in 1947, Brian, like Tom Morello, is quite the Brainiac. He’s got a degree in Astrophysics! There are many jokes about how Queen took people into outer space with their music, but we’ll leave that for another time.
Musically, May gifted us with “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Stone Cold Crazy.” The guitar he used to play these epic tunes was actually built by him and his father! He used firewood to create his “Old Lady” or “The Red Special” – clearly, the guy is a genius. He’s also a multi-instrumentalist – check out his song “Doing All Right” to hear him tinker on the piano!
Born in London in 1965, next up is the legendary guitarist Saul Hudson – famously known as “Slash.” Considered one of the greatest guitarists in rock history, Slash made a name for himself by being Guns N’ Roses' lead guitarist. But like many great musicians, Slash struggled with drugs and alcohol for a number of years. Eventually, he left some of that behind and went on to pursue a very prolific solo career.
His talent is undeniable – have you heard the solo in “November Rain?” If you answered no, please excuse yourself to go and listen to it. While you’re there, add “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to your queue. He took his star power with him, starting Velvet Revolver, which was successful in their own right. But since 2016, Slash returned to Axl Rose, and the band continues to rock to this day.
You can just hear the sexy, moody, smooth guitar of Santana when you say his name. Born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1947, Carlos Santana is a must-have on our list. Moving to San Francisco as a young man, by the time the fabled “Summer of Love” came around, he was a name in the area. But it was when he played Woodstock that he truly gained fame and it was decided that he wasn’t going to be “not-so-well-known” for long.
He’s received high praise over the years for his extremely melodic sound, with musicians such as Prince acknowledging Santana as a greater influence on him than Jimi Hendrix because “Santana played prettier.” Sometimes musicians have to err on the side of caution when discovering their sound or voice, with the legendary guitarist attributing LSD to finding his voice: “You cannot take LSD and not find your voice.”
With the given name Charles, “Chuck” Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1926. One of the pioneers of rock and roll music, he’s basically a musical immortal. Songs like “Maybellene”, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode”, saw him refresh and refine the rhythm and blues movement, which evolved into the elements that make rock and roll so distinctive. His musical style was very much focused on guitar solos and wonderful showmanship. Many of the greats look back on Berry as one of their most important musical influences.
With his blues upbringing, Berry always stayed true to his roots, but managed to mix it up so that he would influence some of the greats over the next fifty years and more! One of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame upon its opening in 1986, he’s remembered for having “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance.” Truly, one of the greatest of all time.