Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth, the groundbreaking British fusion guitarist, has died unexpectedly, aged 70.

The news was broken by his daughter Louise on her Facebook page on April 16. In a short statement she said: “It is with heavy hearts that we notify everyone of the passing of our beloved father. We would appreciate privacy and time while we grieve the loss of our dad, grandad, friend and musical genius. We will update close friends and family when service arrangements have been made and will notify the public of an open memorial service, which all would be welcome. We are undeniably still in shock with his unexpected death and cannot begin to put into words the overwhelming sadness we are experiencing. He is missed tremendously. Louise, Sam, Emily & Rori.”

Holdsworth played with a number of cult prog bands from the late 1960s but achieved greater recognition in the following decade for his work with Soft Machine, Tony Williams' Lifetime, Gong, Jean-Luc Ponty and drummer Bill Bruford. He was an original member of the prog “supergroup” U.K. alongside Bruford, John Wetton and Eddie Jobson, but left following their 1978 debut album, later saying he “detested” the music. Holdsworth was known for his super-fluid legato playing, his embracing of MIDI guitar, and leaping melodies.

His 1982 album I.O.U. and the following Road Games and Metal Fatigue were his most successful but his “challenging” compositions often struggled to be accepted by record companies. Holdsworth once formed a band with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Jon Hiseman but, eager not to be pre-judged by their collective reputations, they sent out their demos without any indication as to the personnel involved. The result? Not a single offer from any record company, and the trio disbanded. When Holdsworth did eventually get a deal, Bruce returned to sing.

Holdsworth’s solo work was recently compiled as a box set, The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (named after a cover-line by media champions Guitar Player magazine), and he was working on a new solo album at the time of his death. Despite his lack of high profile outside of guitar playing circles, he was cited as a major influence by many fellow players. Super-fan Eddie Van Halen was instrumental in getting Holdsworth a major label deal in the ‘80s, and Joe Satriani, Alex Lifeson, John Petrucci, Robben Ford and more are big fans.

On Holdsworth’s passing, Steve Lukather wrote on Twitter: “I can’t believe it! Allan Holdsworth, legendary guitarist of our generation. He changed the game + was the sweetest guy ever... RIP.”

Vernon Reid Tweeted; “#allanholdsworth shifted the fundamental approach of generations of players. He turned a BUNCH of us inside/upside/downside/out.”

Robben Ford once called Holdsworth “the John Coltrane of the guitar. I don’t think anyone can do as much with the guitar as Allan Holdsworth can.” And Mahavishnu Orchestra guitarist John McLaughlin said of Holdsworth: “I'd steal everything Allan was doing, if only I could figure out what the heck it was that he was doing.”