It’s impossible to overestimate the impact guitarist and inventor Les Paul, who died today at the age of 94, had on rock music. His signature guitar design became so ubiquitous that it’s easy to take it for granted. Many of the greatest guitarists in rock history have jammed on a Les Paul: Jimmy Page pounded out “Black Dog” on an LP, Slash used one to write “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” and it’s the axe of choice for Neil Young, Pete Townshend and Ben Harper. And when pop stars want to strap on an instrument and look like a badass, they turn to the Les Paul (observe the guitar break that Madonna has built into her concerts and the six-string hanging around the neck of Katy Perry).
The list goes on: Coldplay’s Johnny Buckland favors Les Pauls in concert and the Gibson-distributed design is the only axe used by Buckethead. Paul’s influence clearly ran both deep and wide, and it’s evident in just how many different types of musicians embraced his design as both a great-sounding instrument and as an emblem of infallible cool.