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Gary Moore, guitarist extraordinaire, strums no more


GARY MOORE (1952 - 2011).

The blues has lost some of its melody. Last Sunday, in a hotel room in sunny Spain, Gary Moore, the renowned Irish axeman whose exploits on the guitar made George Harrison once complain, "He makes me sound like a skiffler, " passed away after a suspected heart attack. He was 58. During a forty-year career, first as a rocker and then a bluesman, he could make his guitar weep, moan and scream. His guitar work, songwriting and vocal prowess put him up there in the Irish holy trinity along with blues giants Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison.

Moore began playing the acoustic guitar at 8. His early influences were BB King and The Beatles, but it wasn't until he saw Jimi Hendrix in Belfast that he developed the blues-rock sensibility that became his dominant style. Another early influence was Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. Moore unashamedly and passionately promoted his mentor throughout his career, especially with his 1995 release Blues for Greeny, which consisted entirely of Green's work. Till the end, he would continue his on-and-off love affair with the blues.

At 16, he moved from Belfast to Dublin to join Skid Row, where he made his mark. A little later, he met Phil Lynott, with whom he would team up to form Thin Lizzy, one of the most influential hard rock bands of the era. Through the late '70s and early '80s, his involvement with bands did not stop him from pursuing a solo career, right from his first release, Grinding Stone, in 1973 to his last, Bad for you baby, in 2008. He dabbled in a variety of music styles from rock to metal to dance.

Generally associated with rock in the prime of his career, his 1990 album Still got the blues, his most famous one, marked his return to his favourite genre. The title track, along with Parisienne Walkways, his first big hit with Phil Lynott in 1979, is among his most seminal and instantly recognisable works. He remained a bluesman till 1997, when he experimented with dance beats in Dark days in Paradise. The sudden change left his fans angry and confused, but not for long. In 2001, he released Back to the blues, and remained a bluesman to his death.

An unusually quiet and reserved personality, Moore collaborated with a multitude of artistes that included Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ozzy Osbourne and George Harrison. His low-key demeanour meant he lived in the constant shadow of the high-profile Eric Clapton, and this was a constant source of annoyance to Moore's fans who felt that Clapton was considerably less skilled on the guitar.

"To say that his (Moore's ) death is a tragic loss doesn't seem to give it the justice it deserves, " his longtime friend Ozzy Osbourne told a magazine. "It's terrible, 58 is just too early, " said Queen's drummer Roger Taylor. "Virtuosity is something we really don't have now. " Bob Geldof called his playing "exceptional and beautiful", saying "he's one of the greatest blues players ever;we won't see his like again", while Bryan Adams called him a "guitarist extraordinaire".

Silence has fallen on Parisienne Walkways. The only consolation for his fans is the enormous body of work he has left behind and the knowledge that nobody can or will bring the guitar to life as Gary Moore did for a long, long time to come.

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