The Second Passion of Allan Holdsworth

Over the last couple of years, so many rock icons have been dying, the latest being Allan Holdsworth (no relation to the bicycle manufacturer) on 4/15/2017, a little known “guitarist’s guitarist”, who wanted to be a saxophonist (his parents could not afford one, so he took up guitar instead), one of his childhood inspirations being John Coltrane who he is now compared to for his ability to improvise.

His second life long passion was road cycling, one of the reasons he moved from England to Southern California in the early 1980’s, so he could ride in the hills. Before that “Holdsworth’s early career was frought with desperation and dry spells, and from his late teens through his mid-twenties music was a mostly sporadic venture and hobby; he supported himself primarily repairing bicycles during this time.”

Photo Source: Alan Care 1991 Tustin, CA (from personal collection)

Allan Holdsworth's home studio with bicycles.

Allan Holdsworth’s home studio with bicycles.

Photo Source: Alan Care 1991 Tustin, CA (from personal collection). Allan Holdsworth’s home music studio with some of his bicycles and his SynthAxe.

Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie

Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie

Photo source: wikipedia.

A true iconoclast, he dismissed one of his most well known classic recordings with the progressive rock supergroup U.K.: “I detested it, I thought it was crap, I didn’t even want to be involved in it. A lot of people like the things I hate the most” he said in a 1983 interview.

As can happen with some geniuses, he was very individualistic and wanted to do his own thing, referring to U.K.: “he objected to the organized structures of a major touring band and left the group after its first self-titled album in 1978.”, the result of which, he reportedly died poor and without the mainstream fame he likely could have had, but happier with his own solo projects.

On one of those, Hard Hat Area, the song ‘Tullio‘ is a reference to one of his cycling heroes Tullio Campagnolo, the inventor of the quick release skewer, among other cycling components, on Secrets appears ‘Spokes‘, and With a Heart in My Song with pianist Gordon Beck includes ‘Sundays‘ which is supposed to be bicycle related as well. Sadly, towards the end of his life, Allan was unable to ride his bike do to balance issues, according to his daughter Louise.


Photo source: Daughter Louise Holdsworth’s facebook page (notice the two bicycle wheels in the upper right hand corner behind the Holdsworth family).

The ‘happy ending’, if you can use that phrase here, is that a gofundme campaign which set out to raise $20,000.00 for his funeral expenses has already broken $107,000.00 as of this post, a testament to how his death has impacted his fans.

HOLDSWORTH_BIKE_20170419 - Copy

Photo Source: Allan Holdsworth Family Memorial gofundme page

Countless musicians have praised Allan Holdsworth’s guitar playing and innovative, independent nature, and are paying their respects including Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson, U.K., Genesis), Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music, U.K., Frank Zappa), Jean-Luc Ponty (Frank Zappa), John McLaughlin (Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra), Stanley Clarke (Return to Forever), Dweezil Zappa, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Steve Vai (Frank Zappa), and Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen) who once said “He is the best in my book”.

Allan’s former U.K. band-mate, Eddie Jobson, will be performing some U.K. tunes that Allan’s guitar playing was featured on, as part of the “Fallen Angels Tour” at BB King’s in NYC on 5/4/2017, that was actually organized before Allan’s death as a memorial for John Wetton (King Crimson, U.K.), and Keith Emerson (ELP), who both recently passed away, as well as Greg Lake (King Crimson, ELP). More formal public memorials for Allan will likely take place in California later this year.

RIP Allan Holdsworth (6 August 1946 – 15 April 2017).

UPDATE: According to the The unReal Allan Holdsworth facebook group 3 “Allan Holdsworth Celebration” memorial concerts will be held at the NYC Iridium jazz club on July 5th, 6th, and 7th featuring “the Allan Holdsworth Band: Steve Hunt, Evan Marien & Virgil Donati with Alex Skolnick, Alex Machacek, Tim Miller, Nir Felder, plus surprise guests.”


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