Today in Hidden Gems we are going to talk about a guitarist who is considered one of the greatest of all time, but you may have never heard of, and that is Django Reinhardt.
He was born January 23, 1910, in Liberchies, Pont-a-Celles, in Belgium to Jean-Baptiste and Laurence Reinhardt. He learned to play the violin, banjo, and guitar and by age 12 he received a banjo-guitar as a gift, and by age 15 he learned to make a living by playing music. Later in life, he suffered a life-threatening injury that left extensive burns over half of his body.
Due to his left hand was burn and only had two fingers that were still movable, he had to create a new style of playing the guitar, and most of the time he used his index and middle finger to do all the cord playing.
It was later in 1934 till 1939 due to WWII Reinhardt met Stephane Grappelli, a young violinist and with his brother Joseph Reinhardt and Roger Chaput on guitar and Louis Vola on bass, they formed the group called Quintette of the Hot Club of France.
The group would go on to create some of the best music in jazz with such songs as:
After the war started, the group parted ways, and Django kept playing his music and came out with other great hits as:
Sadly on May 16, 1953, Django Reinhardt passed away at the age of 43 due to a brain hemorrhage. Over the years after his death, his influence the likes of Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Andrew Latimer of Camel, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead who said this about Django from an interview in Frets Magazine back in 1985:
“His technique is awesome! Even today, nobody has really come to the state that he was playing at. As good as players are, they haven’t gotten to where he is. There’s a lot of guys that play fast and a lot of guys that play clean, and the guitar has come a long way as far as speed and clarity go, but nobody plays with the whole fullness of expression that Django has. I mean, the combination of incredible speed – all the speed you could possibly want – but also the thing of every note have a specific personality. You don’t hear it. I really haven’t heard it anywhere but with Django.” – Jerry Garcia
And Willie Nelson, who has been a fan all of his life said this about Django from his book “Pretty Paper”:
“This was a man who changed my musical life by giving me a whole new perspective on the guitar and, on an even more profound level, on my relationship with sound…During my formative years, as I listened to Django’s records, especially songs like ‘Nuages’ that I would play for the rest of my life, I studied his technique. Even more, I studied his gentleness. I love the human sound he gave his acoustic guitar.” – Willie Nelson
Django Reinhardt was a one of a kind trailblazer in not just in jazz music, but in any kind of music that has a guitar in it. Give this man your time and listen to his music and hear what many people have missed out for so long.