When guitar greats like Paul Gilbert , Guthrie Govan , Michael Romeo and the likes calls someone’s guitar playing skills as ” Terrifying ” , you somewhat get the idea of that guitar player’s prowess. Shawn Lane was the Guitar God we never knew.
Born in Memphis , Tennessee on March 21 , 1963 , Shawn Lane was not a guitar enthusiast from the start. Born the youngest in the family Shawn had three sisters and used to play a lot of piano with them. He took to the piano but once he had a taste of the guitar he never looked back .Shawn was given his first guitar at age of 4 years. By the age of ten he was putting egg crates all over the garage wall in order to sound proof it. Shawn played with various bands from then on. His first bands were Typhoid and Savage. After mastering the guitar he joined the BOA and played with Tommy Aldridge and toured extensively opening for bands like Reo Speedwagon ,Cheap Trick , Blue Oyster Cult and such .
Shawn was very much drawn towards the guitar playing style of Allan Holdsworth . He would also not shy away from trying out other instruments which his band members would leave behind at his grandmother’s house and quickly mastered the bass and cello too.
Shawn never got what he deserved and is still criminally underrated but his musical skills and particularly his guitar skills were beyond words could even describe . He did stuff on his guitar which sounded futuristic and way ahead of his time. His hands on the fret board made magic that others could just dream of doing. He was fast , unbelievably fast but that wasn’t why he was brilliant. He was brilliant because he never was bounded by rules and guidelines . He played with the deepest of dedication and utmost passion. Hearing Shawn Lane play was a pure bliss. You would sometimes doubt if he was even from this planet. The man made the guitar talk , narrate a story .
His first album ” Powers of Ten ” was not received well yet over time it has often made it to the top ten list of the best Shredder albums of all times. The album has influenced countless people over the years and still remains one of the best guitar albums of its time.
in 1995, Hellborg and Lane played with Chinese pop singer Wei-Wei, and the Hellborg/Lane/Sipe trio appeared as an opening act at all of Mainland China’s largest musical venues. Lane and Hellborg parted ways with Sipe in 1997, allowing Lane to work on the tracks that would become Tri-Tone Fascination, his second solo album in 1999.
Shawn Lane was also a big fan of India and Indian music and played with very talented Indian musicians like Vikku Vinayakram, U.Srinivas, and V Selvaganesh to name a few . Shawn toured India in 2002 and played in Kolkatta , Shillong and Aizawl. He was amazed at the reception he got in Shillong and Aizawl. In an article Souvik Dutta , a close friend wrote on Shawn and said that Shawn was overwhelmed by the reception in Northeast India and quoted ” Man, this place barely exists on the map and there are all these wonderful people coming out of the wood works with Powers of 10 albums and posters that I haven’t even seen in America,” Shawn said with a smiling, disbelieving face. “They know everything I have ever done, every tune I have ever played… it’s just bizarre, simply inconceivable.”
Shawn’s meeting with Jonas Hellborg and his future collaborations with him produced undeniably brilliant music. Both brought the best of each other out . It was magic . In 1999, Lane and Hellborg began working with V. Selvaganesh, son of percussionist Vikku Vinayakram of Shakti fame, and began pushing the music into more of a South Indian fusion.
Buckethead, another guitar great and Shawn’s close friend says that Shawn was his biggest influence and both shared many things in common including the passion for horror movies. Amongst others Shawn’s biggest influence was Pakistani Qawwali legend , Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Shawn Lane died on September 6 , 2003 after prolonged illness and was buried at Memorial Park Cemetary in Memphis.
Guitar World magazine wrote in 2008, “Few, if any, guitarists can play faster than Lane could, and his arpeggio sweeps and precision-picked lines blasted more rapid-fire notes than the average human mind could comprehend.”
His sister once quoted ” On a more personal level Shawn is a sweet and gentle Man. He has a great personality and a very dry sense of humor. He is a verocious reader reading anything and everything he can get his hands on. The Library is a favorite haunt. Shawn also loves movies and videos old and new. Sometime I think he knows every movie ever made, who was in it, and who directed it. We get together and play trivia but he wins every game. Ha! I am always telling him that I need to sponsor him and send him to a game show. Ha! Shawn loves family get together’s and is always the life of the party.
Trivia about Shawn :
- He loved strange hats and wore them all the time
- Some of his biggest influences that people don’t know about are Franz Liszt , John Coltrane , Alexander Scriabin to name a few .
- Was voted best guitarist and Keyboardist by Guitar Player magazine and Keyboard player magazine.
Guitar World ma
gazine wrote in 2008, ” Few, if any, guitarists can play faster than Lane could, and his arpeggio sweeps and precision-picked lines blasted more rapid-fire notes than the average human mind could comprehend.”
Sources : Billboard.com
Photo courtsy : Shawnlane.com