We lost one of the world’s greatest and most innovative guitarists – the remarkable and unique Allan Holdsworth

By Joel Barrios, Rock At Night Miami Correspondent

Some people are destined to change mankind. Yesterday the world lost one of them. The Johan Sebastian Bach of electric guitar, The Einstein of the six strings, the inimitable, the  groundbreaking, the guitarist’s guitarist, the Maestro: Allan Holdsworth has left the building.

Allan was an “Original”. A man who touched thousands of hearts with his magnificent music. I believe the first album I ever heard him on was the debut album by Jon Hiseman’s Tempest, when his sound was more horn-like, raw and aggressive – several years before he developed what became his unmistakable trademark legato style. Some years later my dear friend Guericke De La Fuente played the Tony Williams Lifetime album for me and the Soft Machine’s “Bundles”, both the same day. He used to nickname Allan “El Abusador”, which is the Spanish term equivalent to “The abuser”. He used to say Allan did not play his guitar, he abused of it. It was a rather simple way to put how bewildering, confusing, and disoriented Allan’s trademark technique was. However, I don’t think there was ever a gap between Allan’s and his guitars. His instrument was nothing else than an extension of his own mind, and that is exactly what made him so different, unparalleled and innovative. He led multitudes of guitar players and indeed players of all instruments into wildly new possibilities. As someone once said: “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different“. And Allan was not only different: he was unique.

The two aforementioned albums changed forever my entire perspective about guitar playing. Then there was Enigmatic Ocean with Jean-Luc Ponty, which in my book has some of the most beautiful and brilliant guitar playing ever recorded. And then Gong, U.K., Bill Bruford… and countless more. Allan was the thread that ran through progressive rock and fusion and helped invent sounds and techniques that would forever change the path of artful music. He redefined the electric guitar in a way nobody has done since. His friend Frank Gambale recently wrote: “I remember being inches away from his hands on the guitar and thinking to myself, what on Earth are you playing? I couldn’t even understand it even from that kind of proximity. It was as if an alien had landed from another planet.

Joel Barrios and Allan Holdsworth during Cruise to the Edge 2015

I met Allan back in 2015 during the Cruise to the Edge progressive rock cruise. We have a fun chat about music and Cuban cuisine sprinkled with a couple of beers, and he gave me one of his well-known ribcage-shattering hugs, an uncompromising embrace, as strong as talented his music was. I also remember how gently he patiently signed every single item brought to him by a long list of passengers formed  immediately afterwards. A true testament to the greatness of a man whose astonishing technique, unbridled creativity, iridescent tone, dynamic touch, exquisite taste, and expansive melodic strategies have absolutely changed guitarcraft for any player aspiring beyond his or her first barre chord.

He will be talked about for centuries. His soul lies above the stars, but his music will remains with us. R.I.P. dear Allan. We will meet again on the other side.

As has happened time and time again, Allan was sadly under-compensated throughout his time on this planet. There is a GoFundMe fundraiser to help Allan’s closest family (his daughters Lynn, Emily and Louise, and his son Sam) to pay for Maestros’ funeral expenses. Your kind and generous contribution is more than welcome. The goal of 20K was reached in mere 5 hours, and people keep donating as their posthumous tribute. Below you can see some reaction from world renowned musicians after hearing about Allan’s passing…


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