The iconic guitarist and leader of legendary Mountain, Leslie West, passed away yesterday, Tuesday, December 22, at the age of 75.
The news was confirmed by his brother, Larry, in Rolling Stone magazine. Leslie suffered a heart attack at his home in Daytona, Florida on Monday, December 21 and was admitted to hospital, where he never regained consciousness.
Leslie’s career began in 1969 with Mountain, where his playing and singing influenced generations of guitarists with the most notable examples being those of Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, John McLaughlin, Warren Haynes.
Blackmore has stated that Leslie’s phenomenal playing on “Mississippi Queen” served to redirect the course of Deep Purple’s music in an instant, ultimately resulting in the brutal hard rock intensity displayed on “Deep Purple In Rock”.
Dee Snider, was one of the first artists to react on the news of Leslie’s passing: “Leslie West and MOUNTAIN are one of the founding fathers of heavy metal. His explosive, powerful guitar playing and seering solos helped define the genre. Attending guitarists gatherings with Leslie I saw ALL guitarists bow down before him (yes even Eddie Van Halen)… And his influence on HIP HOP (You heard me!) is undeniable. His song Long Red has been sampled on over 750 hip hop tracks including Jay-Z 99 Problems. What an incredible force Leslie was!”
West was often cited as one of the all-time great rock guitarists, but he downplayed his ability in a 1987 interview with Guitar World magazine. “I’m no great guitarist technically,” he said. “I only play with these two fingers [index and ring]. But you wanna know why people remember me? If you take a hundred players and put them in a room, 98 or 99 of ’em are gonna sound the same; the one who plays different, has some of his own, that’s the one you’re gonna remember.”