The guitar is arguably the single most important instrument of the last 100 years. It’s the cornerstone of one of the most powerful and popular genres in modern music, Rock and Roll. As a guitarist myself, I may be a bit biased, but I have a deep appreciation for the instrument. When you look at much of the popular music that’s been made in the last century, there’s really only two instruments that are generally featured front and center in any band: guitar and piano. While piano is a wonderful instrument, it lacks the authority and power responsible for birthing musical gods. Think of the Hendrixes and Pages of the world. These men transcended Rock and Roll and became music icons. They sold out arenas and brought people to their feet. This is the mystical power of the guitar.
When we talk about the greatest guitarists in history, there’s always names that get mentioned without argument. Hendrix, Clapton, Page, SRV, Santana, Frusciante, Richards, B.B. King, etc. Their contributions to music are unquestionable and their talent otherworldly. Lost in the mix is a name that I like to bring up, and subsequently catch a lot of heat for doing so: John Mayer.
This is when you roll your eyes at how I can even mention a guy who wrote a song called “Your Body is a Wonderland,” and 10 years ago captured the same demographic as Hanson and The Backstreet Boys. This is also where you’re wrong. I mean sure, that’s John Mayer, but there’s also this John Mayer:
(please excuse the double popped collar… we’ve all made mistakes)
and how about this John Mayer?
People either forget or don’t realize that he’s an incredible blues and rock guitarist. Most people have no idea he’s part of an entirely separate blues-rock band called John Mayer Trio alongside accomplished musicians like Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan. The bottom line is, this guy shreds. He knows his way around a guitar. Anyone who understands and appreciates music can hear the complexity and technique in his playing. He’s openly talked about his appreciation for most of the names I’ve mentioned above, and you can hear the influences of guys like Hendrix and SRV in his playing. I think in particular what makes him so special is his versatility. He’s equally comfortable playing pop, rock, blues, folk, you name it. He’s the guy that made Room for Squares and Continuum. It’s difficult to name many artists who have abandoned the style and sound that made them famous in the name of evolution and remained successful. This was definitely a calculated gamble on Mayer’s part, but it seems to have paid off. Now when you look around at John Mayer concerts, there’s a pretty interesting demographic on display. There are hipsters standing side by side with basic bitches. There are middle aged parents and their teenage children equally enjoying the music. Pretty much everyone likes John Mayer music because he has a sound for everyone. Across his entire discography, including his work with Trio, there is bound to be an album you gravitate towards. While admittedly I don’t love much of his most recent work, I admire his progression and have no doubt over the course of his career, he has picked up more fans than he has lost.
It seems the hardest part about listening to John Mayer is telling other people you listen to John Mayer, and we need to change that. To all my fellow Mayer fans out there, let us unite. Let us stand strong in the face of music snobbery and remind the less enlightened that John Mayer is the voice of a generation. In an age of music dominated by computers, he is a member of the last bastion of true musicianship, and that should be something that everyone can get behind.