Composer and guitarist extraordinaire Allan Holdsworth has passed away at the age of 70 in his home in Vista, California yesterday. One of the most respected and influential guitarists, Holdsworth left a huge legacy behind him. He was not just another guitar player. He was truly an innovator that changed the game.
Many renowned guitarists today cite Holdsworth as inspiration. Names such Eddie Van Halen, John Petrucci, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson are just some of the students and followers of Holdsworth’s work.
Born in Bradford, England on August 6, 1946, Holdsworth’s recording debut was with the band ‘Igginbottom, with whom he recorded one album entitled ‘Igginbottom’s Wrench. In the following years Allan joined Sunship, Nucleus, with whom he recorded an album titled Belladonna in 1972, and in 1973 he joined Tempest with whom he worked on their self-titled album.
Follow stints with some of the greatest Jazz Fusion and Progressive Rock bands at the time: Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Piere Moerlen’s Gong, and Jean-Luc Ponty. Holdsworth’s debut solo album Velvet Darkness was released in 1976 by CTI Records, although at the time he’s been angered by this move from the label’s side, who used a recording of a rehearsal session.
In 1978, Holdsworth played on Bill Bruford’s debut Feels Good to Me, what ultimately led to the formation of U.K., which beside Brufford and Holdsworth also included keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson and bassist John Wetton. Allan played on UK’s self-titled debut, and after that he left the group due to many musical differences between him and Jobson and Wetton. A year later, Holdsworth played on the second solo album by Brufford, One of a Kind.
In early ‘80s, Holdsworth collaborated with jazz pianist Gordon Beck, as well as with drummer Gary Husband and bassist Paul Carmichael. After Tempest singer Paul Williams joined the line-up, the quartet released an album titled I.O.U. Around same time, it was when guitarist Eddie Van Halen introduced Holdsworth’s work to Warner Bros. Records, which led to inking a deal with the label and releasing Road Games in 1983.
Three years later, Holdsworth singed a new record deal, this time with Enigma Records with whom he put out Metal Fatigue. The same year, Allan starts working on a new instrument, a midi-controller called SynthAxe—the instrument for which he would become known in the coming years. Experimenting with the instrument, this led to the release of his fourth solo album Sand. Secrets followed, released in 1989.
1990 brought the collaboration with Frank Gambale on Truth in Shredding, and the following year Holdsworth recorded Guaranteed with Gary Husband. Chad Wackerman first two albums, Forty Reasons (1991) and The View (1993), included guitar parts played by Holdsworth. In the meantime, in 1992, Holdsworth released another solo record, Wardenclyffe Tower. After that, he released Hard Hat Area in 1994, and in 1996 he was a part of the collaborative project between him and Anders and Jens Johansson called Heavy Machinery. Same year brought the release of None Too Soon.
The new decade began with the release of The Sixteen Men of Tain in 2000 and Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie in 2001, followed by two live releases and a Best Of compilation. Allan was featured as a guest musician on Derek Sherinian’s 2004 album Mythology, and Planet X’s 2007 Quantum. Improvisational, live album and tribute to Tony Williams, titled Blues for Tony, featured Holdsworth, keyboardist Alan Pasqua, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer Chad Wackerman, was released in 2009 via MoonJune Records.
Between 2008 and 2010, Holdsworth was a part of the HoBoLeMa band, which also featured Terry Bozzio, Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin. In 2012, Chad Wackerman released his fifth studio album Dreams Nightmares and Improvisations, which again featured Allan.
2016 and final release by Holdsworth, Tales From the Vault, featured old recordings. Its release was crowdfunded via Pledge Music.
Allan Holdsworth has left an indelible mark on the music scene. His music will continue to live, and his work will continue to be inspiration to many generations of musicians.
Rest in peace, Allan Holdsworth.
“I don’t think about what other people expect or anything. I mean, I sit and worrying so much about what I’m thinking, I’d go nuts if I sat around worrying about other people.” - Allan Holdsworth