Friday, December 19, 2008

Davy Graham invents Led Zeppelin

Davy Graham was an English guitarist who introduced Middle Eastern and Eastern styles and techniques to folk music and influenced Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch (and thus Johnny Marr), Paul Simon, Richard Thompson and many other greats. He died last week at 68.

His song ‘Anji’ was the entrance exam for anyone playing folk music in the 60s: little did we know as we tried to copy the record that he had invented a new tuning for it, but that wasn’t the only reason it was so hard to play accurately. He was a phenomenon.

Here’s a case study: what he does with the jazz standard “Cry Me a River”. First, the fabulous Julie London, who owns that song, in 1964 with the Bobby Troup quintet:

There is a version based on this by Lulu with Jeff Beck. Yes, seriously, and it is very good but it’s in copyright so you’ll have to find it yourself on YouTube. Or buy the Martin Scorsese box set The Blues Collection, in which it appears.

Now here is Davy Graham’s version. It’s primitive by his later standards, but was revolutionary at the time:

Did you hear what he did in the opening bars? That’s “Stairway to Heaven”, that is.

Monitor: Distractions

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