The top 10 black guitarists of all time
10) Lenny Kravitz
Sure he sometimes displays a poppier sensibility (think “Fly Away”) but he routinely returns to his hard-rocking roots with spellbinding results.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”
(Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images For Live In The Vineyard LLC)
9) Tom Morrello
The powerful and politically conscious Morello has been the backbone of hard rock headliners Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Now he is at the helm of a new radical group — Sweet Sweeper Social Club.
Greatest Guitar Riff:“Bulls on Parade”
(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
8) Dr. Know
The lead guitarist for the groundbreaking and acclaimed punk band Bad Brains, Dr. Know (a.k.a. Gary Miller) has helped change perceptions of what genres African-Americans can thrive in.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Pay to C*m”
(Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)
7) Buddy Guy
Sometimes overshadowed by his contemporaries (like B.B. King), Guy’s singular strumming has nevertheless inspired generations of guitarists. Rock God Eric Clapton hails him as a hero.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Stone Crazy”
(Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
6) Eddie Hazel
Backing up the theatrical George Clinton in Funkadelic was the funky and futuristic sounds of guitarist Eddie Hazel, whose own solo classic Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs is a must own.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Maggot Brain”
5) B.B. King
Arguably the most recognized and beloved blues musician alive today, King’s guitar itself is so legendary it has its own name — Lucille. His unique sound has garnered him legions of fans and imitators
Greatest Guitar Riff: “The Thrill is Gone”
(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
This lanky, biracial rock behemoth plays lead on all of the classic incarnation of Guns N’ Roses’ biggest hits. And he contributed memorable riffs to the King of Pop’s repertoire too.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
3) Chuck Berry
One of rock n’ rolls creators and greatest songwriters — Berry’s technique and persona still are held up to this day as the blueprint for all rock artists
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Johnny B. Goode”
(Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)
Prince’s singing, dancing and style are usually what get the most attention but music aficionados will tell you not to sleep on his guitar playing. Now in his fifth decade of making music this little dynamo has got a few more licks left.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “Purple Rain”
(Kevin Mazur/WireImage for NPG Records 2011)
1) Jimi Hendrix
Already considered one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived while he was alive — Hendrix’s stature has only grown since his tragic death. His experimentation and creativity have yet to meet a match in music.
Greatest Guitar Riff: “All Along the Watchtower”
(Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
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In honor of Black Music History Month, theGrio has compiled this list of the most incredible African-American guitar players ever. Your favorites may not have made the cut but few would dispute these legendary ax-men had an important impact on the music scene.