MSN Music Blog - Reverb

Alvin Lee goes home

Groundbreaking guitarist dies after routine surgery

By Mark C. Brown Mar 6, 2013 11:15AM
Alvin Lee
Guitarist Alvin Lee has died unexpectedly and suddenly in Spain after what was supposed to be routine surgery, according to his family.

When Woodstock is mentioned people remember iconic performances by Sly & the Family Stone, Santana, The Who, CSNY and more. Fewer remember the break-out appearance by Lee and his band Ten Years After, featuring a blazing-hot 11-minute rendition of what would become Lee’s signature song. Noting his surroundings, Lee introduced it thusly: “This is a thing called ‘I’m Going Home’ – by helicopter.”

No one had ever seen a guitar played that fast, even if Lee felt later in life that he got pigeonholed as a blazing fast guitarist. Another huge hit, “I’d Love to Change the World,” was decidedly different.

Rumors began circulating this morning about the 68-year-old Lee, which were quickly confirmed by his family on his official website.

With great sadness we have to announce that Alvin unexpectedly passed away early this morning after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure. We have lost a wonderful, much loved father and companion, the world has lost a truly great and gifted musician.

    -- Jasmin, Evi and Suzanne

Rest in peace, Alvin Lee.



May 7, 2014 7:23AM
Mr. Dolby, I don't know where you got this poll. How can Yngwie Malmsteem be over Eddie Van Halen. And why Richie Blackmore is not on it when Yngwie only coppied chops from Sir Blackmore.
Apr 16, 2013 11:10PM
Alvin was one of the best to ever pick a guitar and play, he will truly be missed. R.I.P Alvin.
Mar 14, 2013 2:55PM
Since his death I have read blogs, tributes and historical accounts.  I've been a fan ever since Woodstock and have most of his albums.  I would conclude he was a ground breaking, innovative artist that refused to go mainstream as it would be straying from the music he created.  TYA started being popluar right on the heels of the Beatles.  But what he created was blues based rock with jazz tendancies characterized by sizzling 10 minute, frenzied lead breaks that no other guitarist at the time could imitate.  No 2 minute pop songs for am radio.  He stayed true to his vision and even said he disliked being so closely related to "Goin Home" and "I'd love to Change the World" his only "pop" hit.  He was master of the jam and refused to be lured into the pop scene.  Yes, he was innovative and ground breaking.  Just ask Slash who described him as the first bad-**** fast guitar player.  He's been called the first shredder, a term that didn't exist until him.  I'm Goin Home is a testament to his talent in a weird way.  Why is the song so memorable?  Is it the poetic lyrics?  Don't think so.  Is it the unique pattern of chord changes?  No, can't be that.  It is in my opinion the sheer energy and showmanship he displays in this otherwise almost silly song.  To me, a simple measure of his pure raw talent is contemplated by the question "Who else could have pulled off that song"  I'm thankfull for your contrbutions to the world Alvin.  Thank you.
Mar 13, 2013 11:16PM
I saw Ten Years After once at Winterland San Francisco.  Words cannot describe the way Lee affected me that night.  I've seen many great guitarists--Beck, Clapton, Page, Townshend, Johnny Winter, and so on--Lee was in a class by himself.  He may not have been the true innovator, but what a guitar player.  I read a comment where some guy said he'll always have Ten Years After on his, too.  I am choked up about his death.  We all have lost a great musician.  Rest in peace, Alvin Lee.
Mar 11, 2013 1:55PM
People in this generation know nothing about Alvin Lee. Why should they?, they have JUSTIN "BEAVER" and that fool Kenya West. Two big terds. Alvin was just one of the 200 or go GREAT BANDS from that great era. He never quite got his dues, but his Woodstock performance will LIVE FOREVER. Long live the memory of the great Alvin Lee. Pittsburgh, John
Mar 9, 2013 3:28PM
SSSSSH......Stone Woman Blues...Alvin was my Favorite of all times....Good Nite Alvin and God Bless RIP.....
Mar 8, 2013 7:39PM

Listened to a little TYA tonite. Saw them many times during the 70's. So sad he's gone but Alvin will live forever in my ipod...


Mar 8, 2013 12:12PM
Mar 8, 2013 11:49AM
Thomas Dolby:  What are you even doing on this site?  We are paying tribute and giving thanks to someone whose music inspired us and that we loved.  You bought one of his over 20 albums and you think you can criticize 40 years of work.  BTW, by your own definition, Alvin should be at or near the top of your  own list as his music was "immediately identifiable" by those who were even remotely  familiar with it!  Take some friendly advice- it is better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  Ooops, too late!
Mar 8, 2013 10:35AM
I saw TYA in Boston around 1970 playing outside at a college stadium and after hearing them live I immediately became a life long fan , I loved the many sides of them that they could kick it with mind blowing energy songs or melow you down with songs like change the world , back when we all thought we really COULD . I still hang on to the albums and tapes etc. of them I have and now will have a had time ever playing them after knowing how tragically he was taken away ,it just doesn't seem fair , oh guess that is life and death.
Mar 8, 2013 9:56AM
I know Ten Years After and specifically Alvin Lee is an acquired taste.  I have been listening to it for 45 years and I have yet to grow tired of it. Much is made of his guitar playing and yet his voice was no less important. I did not know the man but I loved his music. Yes, it got repetitive at times but as a whole it spanned the musical gamut, and then died  when he could not sell himself to being a rocker, and instead could not stop playing the blues. I had seen TYA/ Alvin Lee at least a half dozen times in the 70s.The last time I saw Alvin was at the Filmore, he was no longer the lead act. Most had come to see J Giels, and starting booing him. It was sad and he did not handle it well. Woodstock had run its course.  I just wish I had one more chance to see him live and more importantly, tell him thank you for all his great music. Truthfully, if it were not for the Movie Woodstock, I may not have found his music myself.  I find it outrageous that he is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Will they show him at the Grammys? Please give the man his due. His family and fans deserve the recognition. Alvin will live forever.
Mar 8, 2013 9:29AM

Yes sir, I been here from 1939. I was in the front seat of a slick out of Da Nang. I was sneaking up on 30. I had 3 babies at home. Maybe we can agree that we, as a government, were wrong to be there. We were wrong to be in Mississippi with dogs and water cannons and ropes and crosses and torches. We were wrong to send National Guard to Kent State. And - we're wrong NOW to be all over the globe, killing people with drones and troops. Dude, we are a WRONG outfit. I'm not proud of us at all anymore. My mama didn't have a basement and I was too old to draft but, I found a way. I've been here, man, watching shameful stuff for a long time. And, I've been THERE. Thanks for your comment.

In the 60s we were coming together as a people. The Government was worried about "us." We were speaking out. SO, they killed our youngest and best at Kent State. They sicced the dogs on MLK and his followers. They couldn't allow us to come together. We would have been too strong a force. Otherwise we would have been kinder and gentler. The young ones tried. The gov. shot it all down.We're no good.

I'm glad I'm old.

I met Alvin (or Graham Barnes as he was then) when he was about 16 years old.  He used to come around to our house in Nottingham, where he was born, to practice with my brother who also played guitar.  It was obvious at that age that this guy was a genius.  I will never forget the time he brought around his original, brand new Gibson, red body with gold plated fittings, including the Humbuckers and the Bigsby temolo arm and played Chet Atkins' "Trambone".  What a fantastic sight, both him and the guitar!  I am so pleased to be able to say that I at least touched that guitar and knew him.  So so sad to lose him.
Mar 8, 2013 7:04AM
@thomas dolby, who the heck is ETC. Ive never heard of him. wanker.
Mar 7, 2013 10:59PM
I posted a story earlier about my friend John McGrath and his brother Paul putting the watermelon on the stage that Alvin Lee picked up and carried on his shoulder. John and his brother Paul went to Woodstock with a group of friends from Lynn. I was 15 at the time and was a couple of years younger than them so I didn’t get to make it to Woodstock. Another of the stories John told me about when he was at Woodstock was about a couple of dudes that the guys from Lynn had met at Woodstock, the dudes were very well prepared, they had a keg of beer, booze, a bunch of weed, drugs and food (and maybe a watermelon). John and Paul befriended them and the dudes invited them and the guys from Lynn to party with them. Problem was the dudes passed out at some point during the night and when they woke up the next morning the guys from Lynn were still partying. The beer, booze, weed, drugs, and food was all gone and the dudes got all pissed off and called John and the guys from Lynn a bunch of aholes. John said, f-you ahole, you’re the one who invited us to party”.  I can just imagine the guys from Lynn partying all night and having the best time of their lives. Felt kind of sorry for the dudes, but it’s still a great and funny story except if you were the dudes.
Mar 7, 2013 8:53PM
Thomas Dolby.......Your a ****......The man is dead. He was awesome, have some respect.
Mar 7, 2013 7:51PM
@ thomas dolby , who died and let you define innovative and life changing. do your homework, i respect your opinion, but its a little off base.his reverse tracking, and fast runs, and memorable songs and right up there with the best, now in ten minutes, ill never remember your name, and i dont even need to here you play a fn note. R.i. P alvin, and thanks for showing me how a guitar can express ones soul...(music of the spheres) 
Mar 7, 2013 7:46PM

how some of you can say hes not one of the greatest guitar innovators, ill never understand, listen to a space in time...a concept lp, with pure blues,space age guitar approach, and a soundtrack to my life.ive been playing guitar for 30 years, and a student of  the intrument, he's one of the best. just because he wasnt branded and marketed like american cheese doesnt make him any less important than, jimmy page,hendrix, or halen.


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