So Long Alvin
By Brian Arsenault
I clicked on the computer the other morning and there was one of those awful Daily News kind of headlines so prevalent on the internet; something like “Guitar Icon Dies.” I inhaled sharply. I listened to them all. Which one was gone?
Then an even worse headline: “Alvin Lee Goes Home.”
Can you see him? Sweat pouring. Guitar speeding. “Going Home“ coming out breathless, like no one else ever conceived it. He could play. Oh yes, he could play.
It’s like the time I walked into a book store years ago and saw the headline “Remembering Italo Calvino,“ by Gore Vidal, I think. Somehow I’d missed that Calvino had passed. I wish I still didn’t know. You have this voice you’ve listened to and suddenly it’s shut off.
Alvin Lea dead in a Portuguese hospital after “routine surgery.” There is never anything routine about surgery and long after Ten Years After mattered, Alvin Lee is gone. But he was still playing until close to the end. And still good.
One of the remarkable guitarists to leap out of England in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Based in the blues like Jimmy Paige, like Eric Clapton, like Jeff Beck. On to rock ‘n roll. They saved it.
He dazzled at Woodstock. Speed merchant and more. Nearly as big an impression as Hendrix made. Today largely forgotten or never known by many, but he was remarkable in his own right.
A dozen Ten Years After albums topped the charts in England in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Not so many in the States, but big here as well. There were just so many stars in the constellation at the time.
So long, Alvin. The loss is felt. And it seems like just the beginning for a generation, at least the ones who didn’t die young.
Still, he might have been — young that is. The original meaning of “Only the good die young” was that the good are young when they go, at any age.
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