Henry Rollins: 'It's Hard to Think of a Single Contemporary Musician Who's Considered a 'Guitar Hero''

Are guitar heroes thing of the past? Mr. Rollins says yes.

Henry Rollins: 'It's Hard to Think of a Single Contemporary Musician Who's Considered a 'Guitar Hero''
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Henry Rollins recently weighed in on the idea of rock music passing its prime, saying that the days of guitar heroes are long gone by now.

"Is the day of the guitar band over, or at least on hiatus? It's a good question. It is hard to think of a single contemporary musician who is considered a 'guitar hero,'" Henry kicked off in his latest Village Voice blog post.

Pointing out that music is always moving and evolving, Rollins noted that as an "avid listener," guitar music is just not doing the trick for him anymore. "I don't listen to nearly as much guitar-driven music as I did years ago," he said. "While the sound is still part of my life, I do find well over half of my listening to be on the instrumental and avant side of things, where often a guitar is not the predominant instrument, if it's present at all."

Explaining that great guitar players are still very much out there, Henry dubbed the independent scene the place to be for fresh ideas. "I think there is just more eclecticism in independent music," he explained. "Curious, innovative young artists are searching for other sounds and textures to work with. I am so thankful that they are doing so. It has made modern independent music completely exciting and compelling."

Summing it up on an optimistic note, Rollins wasn't reluctant to add that "the appeal of guitar music will never die. There, I have predicted the future, and it's full of guitars. It is the most mass produced and sold instrument in the world and works just fine electric or acoustic. The guitar allows someone, with little effort, to bang out some rudimentary chords and express themselves.

"The portability and affordability of the guitar will always keep it in play. It is an instrument that is easily enjoyed alone to preserve one's sanity. It's one of humankind's best inventions," Rollins concluded.

Can you think of any modern guitarists that can hold up to the ultimate greats? Let us know in the comments.

193 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    BlackLabel5150
    As a guitar player, it takes more to impress me than playing an 8-string, or sweeping for the sake of being technical. Being a guitar god from my point of view means riffs and licks that stand the test of time, great songs and fret board wizardry. you need them all. just because you're a monster on the guitar doesn't mean that you're a guitar god.
    RylanThePotato
    exactly, as a guitar player myself I enjoy and spend the most time on my riffs and such far more than my solos, I feel as though they emulate what I'm expressing far better.
    GeriatricNinja
    Definitely not in mainstream/commercial music, but once you look beneath the surface you'll find a plethora of great guitar players.
    !..!_Rock_!..!
    You're right. There's lots of good guitar players but none of the contemporary players are guitar heroes in the sense that EVH or Slash were in the 80's.
    K!!LsWiTcH
    also i think hes also trying to say that those good players youre probably thinking of nowadays just arent viewed in the same light as the heroes of the past, which i have to say i probably agree
    sonofgkex
    I think we are running into the difference between being a really good guitar player and changing the public perception of how guitar should be played as Hendrix, Page, EVH did.
    twiggy3634
    Guthrie Govan
    MaggaraMarine
    Yes, Guthrie is freaking awesome (I think one of the best if not the best guitarist), but I wouldn't consider him a guitar hero. I mean, Slash, EVH and Jimi Hendrix are real guitar heroes. Everybody knows them. Being an awesome guitarist doesn't make you a guitar hero. Guitar hero is somebody that everybody knows. It has nothing to do with freaking amazing technique. It has to do with popularity. Guitar heroes were a 70s/80s thing. Today I wouldn't say there are that many guitar heroes. In the 80s everybody wanted to be a guitar hero. But today how many contemporary guitarists does a basic music listener know by name? In the past it was different. Everybody knows Slash, Hendrix and EVH. They are icons and I would say they were the most famous members of their bands.
    RCA1186
    He says there isn't a guitar hero in contemporary music, then he says he doesn't listen to much guitar music anymore. There's your problem
    Cardbored
    Read the rest of the article. "This trend in my listening is not due to a lack of great guitar bands or players. It is simply because I try to spread myself as thinly over the vast array of choices available as I can. It's not as if there hasn't always been a ton of music to be enjoyed, but since the 1980s I have made a concerted effort to expand the perimeter of my musical appreciation."
    RCA1186
    So he says there's a lack of great players and then, he says its not due to a lack of great guitar bands or players..
    EpsilonX
    He says that there is great guitar based music, but there aren't really as many guitar players that people obsess over and idolize in the vein of Hendrix, Page, Van Halen, or Slash anymore. The era of guitarists being in the spotlight is over. He isn't saying that guitarists suck now, just that the focus isn't nearly as on them as it was on the past
    bhouse08
    I would say Morello, Greenwood, Bellamy and Jack White should be considered Guitar gods. Honourable mention to Auerbach.
    EpsilonX
    But that doesn't make them guitar heroes. Hero status is more about popularity than ability.
    HitmanJenkins
    Knowing Henry Rollin's musical career, I don't think he listens to mainstream/commercial music that much anyway. The dude was in Black Flag after all.
    Guns N' Chains
    Agreed. For whatever reason people don't want to believe this or just are to lazy to dig/search for them.
    EricSchC1
    I think, in this context, a real guitar hero would make their presence known rather than have to be sought out in obscurity.
    morbidguitar
    He's basically saying that ONLY mainstream music exists these days. Sorry Rollins, but just because you can't play guitar oriented music doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Anyone that listens to modern heavy metal or hard rock knows that this is pure BS. Guitar Hero's don't "exist" because there are TOO MANY of them. Why single out one single guitarist when there are hundreds of equivalent players. With the advancement of the internet and youtube we are able to realize that there are a lot MORE AMAZING guitarists than the ones that are commercially handed to us.
    DickHardwood
    I think by contemporary he means newly emerged. Mayer, White, Frusciante are not new by a longshot, even though amazing players. And I agree with him, in the last few years no contemporary guitar gods have emerged. In the rock domain, indie is the shit now with the kids and I haven't heard any of those new bands showing some level of innovation guitar-wise. Maybe that changes soon, I surely hope so.
    Vantage
    A lot of people probably won't agree, but I would say John Mayer and Jack White should be considered at the very least - they're easily known outside of guitarists' circles and they're helping keep the blues alive, if not pushing it forward.
    kratos379
    I very much agree. Both guys are great and have recognition (well more John Mayer than Jack White) among people who listen to pop music. Guthrie Govan was mentioned above and he's definitely risen up for a lot of us. I would also bring up Tosin Abasi for a great modern metal guitarist. Brent Hinds is great too. I could also see Misha Mansoor of Periphery continuing to get more attention.
    grizzzzly_adams
    John Mayer has the hybrid skill of SRV, Hendrix, and Clapton but has chosen a different path in the past few years/albums to a midwest rock n roll sound, which I love. But he can shred, yeah.
    grizzzzly_adams
    John Mayer has the hybrid skill of SRV, Hendrix, and Clapton but has chosen a different path in the past few years/albums to a midwest rock n roll sound, which I love. But he can shred, yeah.
    CoolMcAwesome
    you say he shreds, yet present no evidence!! no shredding in this video!
    aureliusgtr
    shredding doesnt just refer to metal guitar solos noob
    CoolMcAwesome
    I didn't say it was only metal solos. I said there was no shredding in this video, and there isn't. Ass.
    UncleBluck
    Its amazing what passes for great guitar playing and shredding these days....John Mayer will never be able to shred and you other know nothings who try to create relevancy with what Hendrix did nearly 50 years ago and being able to replicate it today is just further proof of your naiveté.....
    makutoid
    Really, Jack White? There's experimental, and then there's shit guitar playing. There are 6 year olds in China who can play guitar better with their feet..
    !..!_Rock_!..!
    A guitar hero doesn't necessarily have to be that good at guitar. Jimi Hendrix for example.
    AttheDriveThru
    Jimi Hendrix wasn't that good at guitar?
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    Hendrix was not technically good, innovative yes, but anyone who has been playing for a while can play most Hendrix songs. It's what he created sonically, high gain (at the time), effects experimentation and use of feedback that is why he is remembered.
    CultofSG
    It is simply inaccurate to claim that Hendrix is remembered solely for "what he created sonically." Sure that's part part of it, but listen to a song like "Little Wing" which is basically a clean guitar. His unique rhythm skill was in a league by itself and he played some of the most emotional solos. Also, listen to "Red House" and tell me he wasn't technically good.
    emptyshell
    "anyone who has been playing for a while can play most Hendrix songs." That doesn't really mean a whole lot. Being a good guitarist doesn't mean you have songs that noone else can play. People can play his songs, sure. But could they have written and created them themselves? I don't think so.
    kratos379
    Maybe I suck, but I've been playing for a little while and I definitely can't play Jimi Hendrix songs. I can play riffs and small sections, but definitely not whole songs.
    MaggaraMarine
    Being able to play Hendrix's songs doesn't make you as good as or better than Hendrix. Music isn't all about notes. It's how you play the notes. Very few can play Hendrix's songs as well as Hendrix did. It's not about playing the right notes (because that's easy). It's about playing the right notes the right way. Yes, Hendrix was not technically the best guitarist. But guitar isn't about technique, it's about style. And his technique was good enough for the music he played. You don't need to have the best technique to be a great guitarist. You just need to have good enough technique to make your music sound the way you want it to sound like. Oh, and technique isn't all about speed. Good technique is about being able to make good sounds with your instrument and being able to make exactly the sounds you want to make. That's perfect technique - being able to 100% reproduce the sound you are after. It doesn't require any speed if you don't want to play fast. Slow parts can be technically challenging because they need the right kind of vibrato, bends, dynamics and stuff like that. They are different kind of challenging than fast parts. Also, Hendrix created a new kind of playing style that everybody wanted to mimic (melodic rhythm playing).
    buddy1991
    Anyone can play someone else's songs with enough practice. There's a difference between covering a song and creating a song. Also I would love for you to recreate live solos that hendrix did. He is the best guitar player we have ever had and no one has done the same since.
    Dyn1985
    No no sorry its not just feedback, he brought a lot of the modern day rock guitar technique together and exposed it to the masses from his days on the chitlin circuit...
    EpsilonX
    He's a terrific songwriter but he's far from one of the most technically skilled. I'll take writing and creativity over pure technicality though.
    buddy1991
    Please go listen to live at winterland and then rethink what you just said. No one can play like jimi. No one at all.
    soulgrenade
    What???? jimi wasn't good on the guitar? you clearly do not understand what you are hearing. Nobody before or since has came close to Jimi.
    the_white_bunny
    hendrix was one of the most innovative. not that great by todays standards. srv & eric johnson did/do hendrix better.
    mrmckaid
    I hear ya, but key words being "by today's standards". SRV and EJ wouldn't have done what they have without Hendrix somewhat paving the way.
    Battery Chicken
    Standing on the shoulders of genius. Everybody adds their bit to the greater conversation, some just add more than others, and Hendrix added a buttload.
    Dyn1985
    Problem with Jimi is, his music's been around for a while, he's been adored by the masses, universally agreed as one of the best ever and such...so of course you're gonna get these original people who think they're the first person to say "well actually I'm not all that into Jimi"....
    millarso
    What kind of strange world do you people live in where Jimi Hendrix and Jack White are not talented guitarists? Has anyone ever listened to multiple recordings of a single Hendrix song? A lot of them vary greatly because the man didn't just play the guitar, he lived and breathed it. I call bull that 95% of us could really play his songs like he did because he treated them like living beings rather than templates. His talent comes from the soul that he poured into the instrument.
    ibanez124
    Are we talking about John Mayer playing in barber shops on the Chapelle Show? Then I agree, that was hysterical
    logicbdj
    I think that was one of the funniest skits on that show... especially when the Latin music started and Chapelle was yapping through that blow horn.