Legendary guitarist Bob Brozman, famous for being one of the most versatile and talented guitarists in the world, has died at the age of 59.
The cause of Bob's death has not been formerly confirmed, but his long-time collaborator and producer Daniel Thomas says he took his own life after long-term injuries from a 1980 car crash made it increasingly hard to continue playing guitar.
Bob's history as a musician, ethnomusicologist and teacher who was versatile in dozens of genres of world music placed him as one of the most respected alternative guitarists in the world. But he was never known to mainstream audiences, and as Bob recalled in one anecdote, "I made it into this book called '1000 Great Guitarists,' and in my little paragraph it said, 'Brozman will never be very well-known because he plays too many kinds of music.'"
He started out as a blues guitarist in New York, and by the late 70s had moved to Missouri where he was known in clubs as an impressive performer with a good sense of humor. Later he settled into Santa Cruz, California, where police banned him from performing on the street because the crowds he drew would cause traffic problems.
Since recording his first album 1981, Bob travelled the world to learn more about the guitar and became a master of many styles, particularly Hawaiian and Carribean styles. According to producer Daniel Thomas, Bob's purpose in like was "was to follow the guitar to all the places that it got left behind, and see what it did in those cultures." The result was over 30 albums of music, both solo projects and collaborations with other highly-regarded world musicians.
Bob was fascinated by National resonator guitars, which he called "the most uniquely American guitars ever made." He studied them so much that he literally published a book on them in 1993.
His sudden death at a relatively young age has shocked many in the guitar community. As one example, British guitarist Jon Gomm writes in a Facebook post about his old hero:
"Bob was a huge influence on my guitar playing style, from when I first saw him play when I was 10 years old," said Gomm. "He demonstrated to me that making a life as a successful musician didn't have to be about being on TV or in magazine covers. It could just be about doing what you believed in, irrespective of image or sales figures."
A year and a half ago, producer Daniel Thomas discovered Brozman was unable to play his Hawaiian guitar, according to the Guardian. "He said 'My hand won't do it' ... and he was the greatest Hawaiian player since Tau Moe." While recording his final album "Fire in the Mind," Thomas says "there were times when he just had to stop, and it was incredibly painful for him."
In the end, Thomas says Bob "took his own life" because of the increasing effect that his old injuries were having on his playing. "He said he was dissolving before his own eyes, and he was devastated by the loss. He struggled to imagine his life without an instrument in his hands."
Bob is survived by his wife Haley, with whom Bob said "our life together is one long and inspiring brainstorming session," and his daughter Zoe from a previous marriage.
If you haven't had a chance to see Bob Brozman's remarkable performance style, pay tribute with us today and explore some of his videos, and see how his death is a tragic loss to world music. Fans of Bob are invited to share their favorite memories and videos in the comments.