R.I.P. Allan Holdsworth, jazz fusion guitarist from Soft Machine and Gong, dead at 70

Influential guitarist's guitarist was also a member of Tempest, U.K., and Bruford

Allan Holdsworth, the influential progressive rock and jazz fusion guitarist, has died at the age of 70. His daughter, Louise, announced the news on her Facebook page.

Holdsworth was born in Bradford, England in 1946 and first recorded with the band ‘Igginbottom in 1969. However, his most prominent work came as a member of prog rock and fusion bands like Tempest, Soft Machine, and Gong during the mid-1970s. He also recorded albums with The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Jean-Luc Ponty, and the prog rock supergroup U.K., featuring singer/bassist John Wetton of King Crimson and Roxy Music, keyboardist/electric violinist Eddie Jobson of Roxy Music, and drummer Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson.

In 1982, he released his first solo album, I.O.U.. Six years prior, an unauthorized LP dubbed Velvet Darkness was released through Creed Taylor’s CTI Records; Holdsworth never gave consent for the album to be released and received no royalties from its sales, and therefore never considered it part of his discography. Holdsworth would continue putting out solo efforts through 2001, culminating with Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie. 2015 saw the release of Tales from the Vault, a collection of previously unreleased recordings. He also released Blues for Tony, a tribute to his former bandmate Tony WIlliams, in 2009 with Alan Pasqua, Chad Wackerman, and Jimmy Haslip.

He was also an early proponent of SynthAxe, a company that produced synthesized guitars in the 1980s. Holdsworth endorsed the instrument throughout the decade, and his work with it greatly affected his later work.

Holdsworth is considered a “guitarist’s guitarist,” someone whose name may not have been well-known but who greatly impacted a number of musicians. Eddie Van Halen and Robben Ford list him amongst their major influences, with the latter calling him “the John Coltrane of the guitar. I don’t think anyone can do as much with the guitar as Allan Holdsworth can.”

In her post announcing her father’s passing, Louise Holdsworth noted that a public memorial service is being planned. You can also donate to the family’s GoFundMe page to help cover funeral and memorial costs. Read her full note, followed by some highlights of Holdsworth’s career, below.


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