The Lasting Legacy of Les Paul, 94

Les Paul may be remembered as much for his playing as for his musical inventions.

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When This Might Get Loud opens in cinemas tomorrow, audiences will get a taste of three generations worth of rock music created on the tangible brilliance of Les Paul's electric guitar. It's a shame Paul won't be able to witness it. Earlier today, the legendary musician passed away at the age of 94. Not only a guitar virtuoso, Paul is credited with inventing the first electric guitar as well as multi-track recording, both of which are the basis of rock music, period. As pundits, columnists and fans look back on his life, a question emerges: Of all that Paul is credited for, what will be his most significant and longest lasting legacy?

  • Guitar Hero  Honing in on the importance of Gibson guitar that bears it's inventor's name, Mark Silva from The Swamp says "two electric guitars that emerged from the 1950s, the Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster, remain the two finest instruments available today. All you have to do is look at who's playing them." The National Review's Mark Hemingway agrees, adding, "It would be hard to overstate the influence of his guitars— there are few things that have a more iconic American design than a Les Paul, and his guitars have been played by a who's who of rock and country musicians."

  • Recording King  Gawker's John Cook makes a case for the influence of Paul's groundbreaking recoding device, which allows singers to record multiple tracks and lay them on top of one another to get a more well-rounded sound, saying, "Multi-tracking is recording—without that innovation, there would have been no White Album, no Radiohead, no nothing." Reason Magazine also singles out Paul's eight-track invention, saying it "put the D into DIY while allowing bands like the Beatles to make lasting works of art."
  • Choice Chanter  Dave Bry from The Awl pushes Paul's musicianship over everything else and provides a black and white clip of Paul singing 1951's "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," a song he rocorded with his wife, Mary Ford. Likewise, Time Out New York tips its hat to the crooner with a clip of "How High The Moon."

Voice from the Past The L.A. Times is running Michael Walker's 1991 story about Paul's struggle with his inabilities to play live and Esquire's John H. Richardson has an interview from last year in which Paul reminisces about how he began and ruminates on the state of music today. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.