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Rock guitarist Alvin Lee passes away

Rock guitarist Alvin Lee passes away

THE rock guitarist Alvin Lee has passed away suddenly at the age of 68.

The British-born musician had shot to world-wide fame after his virtuoso performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 with his band Ten Years After. His performance features in the documentary film of the event.

The year before, T.Y.A. had been invited to tour the United States after their music was picked up by underground radio stations in San Francisco and began to attract enthusiastic fans.

Lee had first started to play a guitar at 13 and within two years had formed the core of what was to become Ten Years After. Following a spell in Hamburg they returned to a residency at the Marquee Club in London and began to build their musical reputation.

Their popularity in the United States was marked by the fact that they toured the country 28 times over a 7 year period.

While the group enjoyed top 40 album success on both sides of the Atlantic, their reputation was not measured by hit singles but by their live performances with Lee producing mesmerising performances on his Gibson ES-335 in what were extended jamming sessions (see below).

In an interview in 1988 (see below) Lee explained his style: “I don’t like things to be too exact. I like the freedom to feel your own way. I don’t play exact guitar, I never read music, I play from the hip like a gun slinger. I’m a jammer.”

It was a style which meant that each of Lee’s live performances were unique to the moment. “I play purely by instinct,” he said, “I play from adrenalin”.

By the early 1970s, Lee had decided to leave T.Y.A. and follow a different course. In 1973 he released On The Road To Freedom in which he worked with a range of singers including George Harrison, Mick Fleetwood and Steve Winwood.

Over the years he released a number of albums. These included Ride On and Rocket Fuel with his trio Ten Years Later in the late 1970s. In the 1980s he collaborated with Rarebird’s Steve Gould to produce two albums, as well as touring with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor.

His output in the 1990s included back-to-back collections Zoom and Nineteen Ninety-Four — with George Harrison among the guest artists to appear on both.

In 2004, he released Alvin Lee In Tennessee which was recorded with rock and roll legends Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. 

Lee’s final album, Still On The Road To Freedom, was released in 2012.

He had been living in Spain in recent years and passed away after experiencing what a statement on his website described as: “unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure”.

The statement continued:”We have lost a wonderful, much loved father and companion. The world has lost a truly great and gifted musician”.

To view footage of Alvin Lee performing on Night of the Guitars, click here.

To see an excerpt from an interview with Alvin Lee, click here.

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