Thursday, August 25, 2016
Lemonade, Lemons, Django, Music
I'm probably not telling most of you anything new when I repeat the story about Django Reinhardt, the Belgian-born, Gypsy jazz guitarist who was part of the Hot 5 (Quintette du Hot Club de France, as they called it). He burned his chord-making hand badly and lost the use of his last two fingers. It's easy to see the bad burn scar on the back of his hand and the problem with his pinky in this photo, but his ring finger was useless as well. There are a lot of guitar chords you can't make with only two fingers and a thumb.
Rather than quit guitar, Django learned to play guitar without making chords, by making only individual notes with his two working fingers. A new style in guitar playing was popularized if not created and even though jazz is in decline, you hear a lot of Django in every rock guitar solo, or so I believe.
There are modern guitarist who have suffered injury to their pick-holding or, more precisely, their string plucking hand but that's almost no problem at all, especially if you use a pick. I'm thinking of Jerry Garcia and Phil Keaggy. If you're missing your middle finger as Garcia was and Keaggy is, you can't play like Dire Straits guitarist, Mark Knoffler, who uses, usually, his thumb and three fingers. But you can still play like Jeff Beck, if you're really talented, even if you don't use a pick like Beck doesn't. Tony Iommi lost the tips of his chord-making hand's middle and ring finger, so he was in Django's predicament to a lesser degree. He protected the ends of those fingers with thimble like covers.
The seed for this posting was I saw Eric Johnson play last night to a rather sparse crowd in a small venue (what's up with that? the guy is a superior guitar player). He only used his pinky for chords and his first three fingers for individual notes. He did quite a good version of Hendrix's Third Rock from the Sun. Ah, our generations' classical music.