Who is Shawn Lane You Ask? He’s One of My Guitar Heroes

By Greg Goss 

10/3/2018

Shawn Lane passed away years ago (2003), but he remains very much alive in my mind. He isn’t a household name, but he is known amongst the guitar greats. His combination of technique, phrasing and soul made him a legend. He was born and he passed away in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Musical Style of Shawn Lane

Shawn mostly played a fusion-rock style music, but he also played some jazz and then Indian-inspired music in his later life. I first heard him about ten years ago on YouTube. I knew of his name, but when I looked him up online, I was blown away. He instantly became a favorite. Interestingly, many of the videos online of him are low-budget, but that's all you need to enjoy his work. To me, he looks calm and at ease playing the guitar. Perhaps he was "in the zone."

What’s fascinating about musical genius is that it’s hard to describe - just like watching a professional athlete - how it all comes together makes it great. He displayed technical ability at a young age (14 years old according to those who knew him) that surpassed his years. In the videos of him, he plays fast in some songs, going from note to note with dizzying speed. He slows down in other songs to create melodies that melt together in a harmonious way, like a spiritual walk through the park.

It is evident he worked hard at both his playing and his compositional skills. It's great to hear such artistry, where one immediately forgets about daily worries and can enjoy the pure sound. People who knew him mentioned he enjoyed many deep topics, ranging from philosophy, to spirituality, to culture.

Browse His Performances

You can check out the work of Shawn Lane here, on YouTube. These videos give a taste of his musical style and guitar skills.  

1. Shawn Lane in Concert (1998)

His technical aptitude is very apparent. He’s like a Paganini of the electric guitar. His music is smart, sharp, and cool. 

2. Shawn Lane with a Strat

He’s test-driving a Strat in this video. This showcases his ultra-smooth and flawless technique, and also his bluesy side. The depth of soul in his playing is evident – pure beauty, pain, and all. 

3. Shawn Lane in Later Years

Here is a sample of Shawn improving in an Indian style, wonderfully combining elements of eastern and western music.  

Talent & Fascinating Humility

Not only was Shawn a guitar extraordinaire, he came across as a genuinely humble and easy-going person. It’s refreshing to see someone so talented be so down-to-earth. His gentle spirit shines through in his instructional videos. It’s a shame he didn’t become more widely known, however his style may have been more geared toward serious guitarists than other audiences. 

Shawn suffered long-term health issues and dies at the age of 40. He will be missed amongst his guitar fans. Luckily, his Wikipedia page offers lots of great detailed information on his musical life and legacy.

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