Friday, August 14, 2009
"When you're my age, you know that the end is in sight. How do you handle it? You live for the moment. The past is gone and the future isn't here yet. And you ain't gonna change it, no matter what you think. And so the most obvious thing to do is right now." - Les Paul, last year, at age 93.
Les Paul's remarkable career began at age 13, in 1928, playing guitar in a traveling cowboy band. In 1941, using parts from a telephone and radio mounted on a piece of wood, he devised the first solid body electric guitar. In 1952, Gibson went into production with its celebrated Les Paul model. The world would never be the same.
From a background instrument that could barely be heard, the guitar became a lead instrument, capable of an immense array of sounds that transformed virtually every genre of music and set the scene for rock 'n roll.
Les Paul also single-handedly invented multitrack recording, once again changing how we hear music. He performed with the likes of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby, and during the 1950s recorded his own string of hits as a soloist and with his wife, vocalist Mary Ford.
In celebration of his 90th birthday, in 2005 he recorded an album featuring guest appearances by Eric Clapton and other luminaries. The album earned him two Grammy awards to add to an earlier performing Grammy from 1976 as well as technical Grammys.
In 1983, he began doing weekly gigs in a small New York club, Fat Tuesday's. In 1995, he changed venues to the Iridium, another small venue, where he continued to perform until June this year. Les Paul died yesterday. He was 94.
On today's NY Times is an extraordinary 15-minute video interview from last year, at age 93, recorded before and during a recent Iridium gig. The image above is a screenshot from the video.