Allan Holdsworth, Progressive Guitar Virtuoso, Dies at 70

Allan Holdsworth dead
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Allan Holdsworth, known as a guitarist’s guitarist for his progressive rock and jazz fusion work with bands including Soft Machine, Gong, and U.K., died on Sunday, according to a Facebook post from his daughter Louise. He was 70.

Born in Bradford, England, Holdsworth had lived in Southern California for several decades. His complex guitar work was cited as an influence by musicians such as Eddie Van Halen and Robben Ford.

Holdsworth started out playing with rock and jazz fusion bands in the early ’70s and then joined up with acts from the Canterbury progressive scene, including Soft Machine and Pierre Moerlen’s Gong. He played with bassist Stanley Clarke, King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford’s solo act, and with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty’s band, and was then recruited to join progressive supergroup U.K. with Bruford, violinist Eddie Jobson, and bassist John Wetton. But he objected to the organized structures of a major touring band and left the group after its first self-titled album in 1978.

From the 1980s onward, Holdsworth released a number of jazz fusion solo albums with collaborators including Gordon Beck and Mark Varney, and continued to tour. “Road Games,” from 1983, received a Grammy nomination for best rock instrumental performance.

An early proponent of the guitar synthesizer, he endorsed instruments for the SynthAxe company in the 1980s. Reverb magazine described Holdworth’s music as, “This was quantum jazz fusion with a Fripp-esque legato style and truly otherworldly tones.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up on behalf of his family to help fund memorial expenses.

Musicians including Joe Satriani mourned Holdsworth on Twitter.

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    1. Tom McGeachin says:

      Not only was he one of …if not the best guitar player ever….he was an equally nice guy and I am honored to have been able to call him a friend….

    2. Allan did everything you could do with the guitar. Musically. Love Hendrix, but imagine Allan setting his guitar on fire. He once said” It’s all about the notes” that’s all all he cared about, though he couldn’t help but do it with style.I will miss this man, who I STILL try to emulate. More than I can say. I met him a few times, and it was clear that was his least favorite part of his situation. If you have a letter you want to write, don’t put it off. You never know when the opportunity will slip away.

    3. Michael Nash says:

      Plain & Simple..He not only was but IS the most innovative guitarist ever…immediately you new it was him..a great loss, but a great inspiration to his craft..thank god for Mr. Holdsworth !!!

      • John Gilbert says:

        man did I love Allan. i discovered him in high school and was thrilled by his approach. Saw Allan live at least 10 times. had a few fun conversations with him. My favorite one was: I asked Allan if he was still brewing beer. Allan replied, “No. But I’m still drinking.” I will miss him all the wonderful music he gave us.

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