Rock gods? The most overrated guitarists of all time


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No musical instrument on earth is more heavily identified with rock music than the guitar. Your band may have a great singer, a nimble bassist, and a superhuman drummer, but you’ll have difficulty attracting fans without a guitar player.

Many still argue about which guitar player was the best of all time, but do all the names they throw around deserve to be in the discussion? Absolutely not. Many musicians who have had the mantle of “greatest guitar player” bestowed upon them were anything but, instead offering half-baked replicas of riffs, licks, and runs that someone older and better came up with decades earlier.

Here’s our list of ten guitar players we believe should be in the discussion, provided the discussion is “Who gets credit for being a great guitar player but doesn’t deserve it?”

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Eric Clapton

In the 1960s, as a member of the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton was the subject of graffiti proclaiming him “god.” In reality, he dispensed pentatonic licks cribbed from Robert Johnson and never played an inspired solo in his life. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he stopped playing psychedelic hard rock to become a purveyor of mediocre adult-contemporary drivel like “It’s in the Way That You Use It” and “Tears in Heaven.” We did nothing to deserve this insult.

Image Credit: Matt Gibbons / Wikimedia Commons.

Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page is best known as the man who founded Led Zeppelin, and the number of teenagers who picked up a guitar to emulate him is beyond counting. But while the studio albums are classics, the live recordings show him to be shockingly inept. This is not hyperbole. If you know anyone who collects Zeppelin bootlegs, listen to one and watch yourself cringe in horror at his ineptitude.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan spent the 1980s playing blues licks cribbed from Albert King, and while no honest person would say he was a bad musician, the glowing accolades he received suggest that he was a virtuoso akin to Yo-Yo Ma, not someone churning out 12-bar clichés for drunken concertgoers who didn’t know any better. Sadly, he died in a helicopter crash at 35, but don’t worry – Eric Clapton is still out there making highly overrated music in his stead.

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Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash has a unique and iconic look, with his low-slung Les Paul and trademark top hat. However, if you deprived him of future hats by closing his favorite haberdashery, you would only be left with his guitar playing, which is insufficient to justify his revered status. Any reasonably decent guitarist could replace him tomorrow.

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Carlos Santana

When they took the stage at Woodstock in 1969, Santana was a new group whose Latin-infused psychedelic rock was warmly received by the hippies. For the rest of us who are not on 50 hits of acid, Carlos Santana is mainly a purveyor of noodly jams that go on for half an hour. That would be bad enough on its own, but his hit 1999 single “Smooth” stayed on the radio for what felt like an entire ice age, and there was no escaping it until well into the 21st century.

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Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards is an undisputed master of the rhythm guitar, but the group wisely gave the lead guitar job to more capable folk, such as the immensely talented Mick Taylor. This is because Richards has no talent for playing lead guitar, and his attempts at it bear that out. Listen to the solo on “Sympathy for the Devil” if you’re skeptical. The best parts of it are the silences between the notes.

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Jerry Garcia

The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia sustained an injury at age four that cost him the middle finger on his right hand. He was lucky – most guitar players need their left hand to hold down all the notes and chords, while the right can strum indiscriminately, something that can be achieved with a prosthetic limb. This means he has no excuse for his meandering playing that, for some mysterious reason, caused thousands of people to drop out of society and follow the band from city to city for decades.

Image Credit: Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

John Mayer

Whatever you think of John Mayer as a guitarist, you probably know him more for some concerning comments he made in the press in 2010 than for his music. We’re not going to repeat what he said here, but you may, of course, peruse his comments at this link should you wish to do so. After that, we recommend listening to his relentlessly bland and nondescript guitar playing as a palate cleanser for your disgust.

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Tom Morello

If you were an angry suburban cosplay socialist teenager in 1992, you probably listened to Rage Against the Machine, a band from Los Angeles who were very, very angry and used the “F” word with impunity. Their guitar player, Tom Morello, is an astute political mind who speaks frequently and intelligently about various injustices in the world, but he really bet all his chips on that and primarily uses that thing hanging off of his neck (known as “a guitar”) to make funny noises and affix Shining Path stickers. This schtick has not changed in 30 years.

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The Edge

David Howell Evans is better known as U2 guitarist The Edge. If a musician is naming himself after an unspecified feature of an inanimate object, you can bet cold hard cash that the guy can barely play, and indeed, The Edge has been a scarcely competent guitarist for over 40 years. He occasionally does some interesting stuff with open strings, but he’s never done anything to justify turning up in “Greatest Guitar Players of All Time” lists, as he repeatedly does.

Editor’s Note: This list was created based on the opinions of the author. The choices presented are subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences and perspectives.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

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