By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published November 5, 2003

"Why do the good seem to always die young?"

Well, it seems that I am always the last to know.

On September 26 of this year, the music world lost another unsung hero. Virtuoso guitarist Shawn Lane passed away.

The amazing thing is that the majority of persons reading this article won't even know who Shawn Lane was. They simply had never heard of him. Even guitarists who follow the trades and keep up on who's hot and who's not draw a blank on the name.

So, who WAS Shawn Lane?

It depends on who you ask. For me, Shawn was a very young teenager who could play the hell out of an SG. My very first encounter with Shawn was one night in Memphis. I was there to videotape a performance of Black Oak Arkansas, and Shawn was the "new guitarist" in the band. The band was introduced, and as the stage lights came up there stood this….this…."kid". That's all I could think of. He was a teenager. Barely. And wielding a Gibson SG. He wore a vest over a white shirt and had extremely long blond hair. He played with such speed and passion that I could hardly believe my ears. I asked the road manager where they found this prodigy and he said "Right here in Memphis".

I saw him a couple more times with BOA during that period, and then he left the band and began a self-imposed exile from gigging as he apparently felt burnt out on playing. In retrospect, I can see why. Using BOA as a benchmark for one's talents might cause any aspiring future guitar God cause to reconsider things. I'm sure he outgrew the band even before they discovered just how good he might be. In any event he left, and that was that as far and Shawn Lane and I were concerned. But not so for Shawn himself. He spent many years deeply concentrating on guitar and music theory before sticking his head out in the public, and even then with some trepidation. But that kind of talent cannot go forever undiscovered, and in no time he had landed a Warner Brothers Record contract as primarily a jazz artist.

If you have never heard Shawn play guitar and you are a musician, your musical experience is underdeveloped. When you first listen to him, it is easy to fall into the old "he's all technique and speed" trap. But if you take the time to delve into some of his various excursions with other artists like Jonas Hellborg, you will soon discover that he had ALL the bases covered. His knowledge and skill at playing JUST the right riff for any particular style of music was uncanny. Take my word for it: If you are a fan of electric guitar, you need to listen to some Shawn Lane.

Shawn also played on albums by John Entwistle , Robert Duvall, Al Kapone, Joe Walsh, Sam and Dave, Tony Joe White, Alex Chilton (of The Box Tops fame), Chuck Reynolds Project, Rob Jungklas, The Worrell Bros, David Lynn Jones , Billy Paul, Jeff Gossan , Larry Raspberry, Waylon Jennings, Keith Sykes, Omara D, Phalon Alexander , Jimmy Davis, Rick Christian w/Atlanta Rhythm Section , Problem Child, Windigo, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and many more.

So many others have said it all better than I could, so I have included some professional as well as personal comments from associates, friends, and family.

So long Shawn. We will miss you.

To hear Shawn Lane playing "One Note At A Time" as a RealAudio file, click HERE.

Guitarist Shawn Lane Dies

Written By: Barry Schwartz

Shawn Lane, a virtuoso guitarist and keyboardist known primarily for his contributions to world and jazz-fusion music, died of lung disease on September 26 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. He was 40.

Known for unbelievably accurate guitar work at rapid speeds, Lane's musical output often defied categorization, as he incorporated a diverse palate of music, ranging from funk, country and classical to heavy metal, psychedelic rock and jazz.

Born March 21, 1963, in Memphis, Tenn., Lane began playing guitar at eight, and he began his professional playing and recording career when he was merely 12. Still a teenager, Lane tagged along with Southern rockers Black Oak Arkansas as the band's notoriety began to fade, but he still managed to leave jaws dropped everywhere he played with his technical skill.

While his earliest recordings saw Lane working with an eclectic assortment of rock and soul artists like the Eagles' Joe Walsh, Big Star's Alex Chilton, Sam & Dave and the Johnny Cash-Willie Nelson country supergroup the Highwaymen, it was his work with renowned Swedish bassist Jonas Hellborg, recording world-fusion music, that led to the guitarist's greatest acclaim. Hellborg and Lane's collaborations explored the Carnatic style of South Indian classical music, progressing from a fusion style into a more traditional sound. Participating in sessions with percussionists Kofi Baker, Jeff Sipe and the Indian percussion-playing brothers Vinayakram Selvaganesh and Vinayakram Umashankar, Lane began to make his permanent mark on the musical landscape.

Lane began experiencing health problems in 2001. In September he was preparing for a new album with Hellborg and drummer Ginger Baker, but he began to suffer from severe chest pain. He passed away a few weeks later.

Lane is survived by his daughter, Ashley Marie Root; his mother, Diane Lane; two sisters, Mitzi Lane Purvis and Tina Lane; and his grandmother, Willodyne Martin.

b a r d o r e c o r d s . c o m

Born 21 March 1963, Memphis TN, Shawn Lane started his musical journey playing cello and piano age 4 then switched to guitar at age 8. Progressing very fast he was playing professionally in clubs and making recordings at 12. He had developed such a reputation by the time he was 14 that he got an audition and then the gig with Black Oak Arkansas. 4 years of Stadium tours sharing the bills with the likes of Ted Nugent, the Outlaws, Cheap Trick, Blue Öyster Cult, REO Speedwagon and others followed.

At 18 burnt out from touring, he quit Black Oak, got married and settled down to intensely study music for two years. During this time he played no gigs at all but was totally immersed in books and records.

After this extended vacation he started playing with various bands round the south. Between 86-89 he headed his own band the Willy's, a sort of half cover half Shawn Lane original music band. This band had a stint as the house band a the legendary Peabody Hotel in Memphis. During this time people like Kirk Hammet, George Lynch and other rock stars staying at the hotel while on tour, caught Shawn in the act and were subsequently destroyed adding to the legend of the Memphis Monster.

During these years Lane also did sessions and concerts with people like Larry Raspberry, Mark Lindsay, Robert Duval, Jimi Jamison (Survivor), Rap: DC Talk (Christian Rap), Al Kapone (Gangsta Rap), Joe Walsh, Sam and Dave, Tony Joe White, Alex Chilton.

In 1989 SL was asked to play on the Highwaymen 2 record Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. His work on this record led to him being signed to Warner Bros. for a solo deal.

He spent the following two years writing and recording what would become "Powers of Ten". He also recorded two instructional videos and made a US-tour to support "Powers Of Ten" in 92. In 1993-94 SL produced records for other artists and was involved in teaching and developing curriculum's for conservatories in Europe.

By the end of 1994 SL teamed up with bassist Jonas Hellborg. The two have since then recorded four albums, Abstract Logic [DEM 035] (with Kofi Baker on drums), Michael Shrieve's "Two Doors" [CMP Records],Temporal Analogues of Paradise [DEM 036], Time is the Enemy [Bardo 037] and toured throughout Europe, Asia and the US.

Shawn Lane was awarded Best New Talent in Guitar Player Magazine 1992 and placed 2nd in the best Keyboard Player category in Keyboard Player Magazine the same year.

A Personal Account of Souvik Dutta

Shawn Lane was one of the most prolific musicians of the last century. His contribution to music can only be understood by listening to his works. An endless learner, a passionate reader and a keen observer, he always appreciated the good in everything.

He was musician first and then a guitar player..then an incredible piano player and a heck of a drummer. His love for all forms of music is vivid in his works. During the last few years of his life, he immersed himself in listening and fusing Indian classical music into his sound. His endless pursuit and quest of knowledge was amazing. Shawn Lane will always be remembered as long music exists in our world.

I have had the privilege of knowing Shawn Lane personally for the past few years and, during that brief time, he changed my world of music. Less than a year ago I traveled with Shawn to India to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams. At the time, he was already performing with the best of Indian musicians in America and Europe, including Vikku Vinayakram, U.Srinivas, and V Selvaganesh to name a few. His knowledge of Indian culture, geography, and music was astounding. I always wondered how a person from Memphis, Tennessee could know so much about something so far away. Well, that was Shawn Lane. During the first couple of days of his stay in Calcutta, he would often look out of the big windows of his hotel room and observe the graying buildings and structures nearby and gaze in wonder. "Man, that building is amazing, how the heck is that thing still standing up," he said one time pointing at the sorry state of the 'Chatterjee International' building, busting out to a childish laughter and joy. By the third day we were there, he knew the names of every store in the area. He already knew every channel in the television and the names of every model on Fashion TV! He was amazing! Right after the first performance at the Calcutta School of Music, he already had swarms of people following him. Jonas and I would always laugh about it and wonder about his aura and magnetic personality. His performance at 'Some Place Else' was more powerful than fireworks at any New Years event. There were crowds of people standing on the top of bars, with video cameras and recording equipment. I can honestly say today that all fire hazard rules were broken by large. After the first set was over, I felt that the show was over. It was too much energy to handle. The boys came back with an even more powerful set. The audience was dumbfounded--people were jumping in joy and ecstasy, others were crying, and some were standing in a daze like statues. They had never seen or heard anything like this before.


Our travels to northeast India were much more bizarre. There were hundreds of people waiting to receive him at the airport, making him feel like one of them. Shawn told me later that his experience at Shillong and Aizwal was one of the most surreal moments of his life. The devotion, love and dedication of people there really made him feel like an icon. "Man, this place barely exists on the map and there are all these wonderful people coming out of the woodworks with 'Powers of 10' albums and posters that I haven't even seen in America," Shawn said with a smiling, disbelieving face. "They know everything I have ever done, every tune I have ever played... it's just bizarre, simply inconceivable." I was filled with so much joy that Shawn felt that he was at home in India. He was given an open invitation to return anytime; I only wished that he could get the same respect and recognition everywhere else. We drove around the last day in Calcutta without Jonas and Andrea. I could see in his eyes that he was absorbing everything around him. We talked about Srinivas, Ali Akbar Khan, Shankar, Bach, Beethoven, Vikku, Ray, Gorecki, Holdsworth, Buckethead, Zappa, Jaco, Kaiser, McLaughlin, Zakir, Salamat, Nusrat, Bhimsen Joshi, Manhar Bharve, Subbalakshmi...the list goes on. He told me that he could not wait to come back and travel south to visit his friend Srinivas and Selva who had invited him to stay there for a while. But I knew that his grandmother was on his mind and that he had to return to Memphis. He thanked me endlessly for helping make his trip possible. Deep in my mind, I was much more thankful to him for the gift that he gave to all the people that witnessed the musical brilliance, the sheer humility and the wealth of knowledge he provided. We were going to travel together again in January, 2004. While that fate has been decided, I know that he will be with us in spirit. His blessing is with all of us that believed in him. I will miss him talking, thinking and playing. But today, I do understand the ideology behind 'Powers of Ten', the quest of my friend, Shawn Lane. He was an overflowing jug of music and knowledge, a distant front runner in the vocabulary of world music. He has left so much for us to enjoy during our lifetime. It is up to us now, everywhere, to spread the music of Shawn Lane. He was one the greatest guitar players that ever lived and someone who advanced the instrument to the next level. I and everyone else who cared about you will miss you dearly.

Souvik Dutta, 10.19.2003

In Loving Memory

Shawn Lane
Born March 21, 1963
Died September 26, 2003

Eulogy for my Brother Shawn Lane
Written By Mitzi

To the world, and to me my Brother was a musical genus, a virtuoso. Who touched your soul and inspired you with his music. But to me their was also another side. To me he was simply my one and only Baby Brother. From the moment he was brought home from the hospital as a baby we knew he was special and we his three sisters adored him. As an Adult I would call him if I was Blue, Moody, or needed a friend. It might take some time to actually get him on the phone, but he would finally call me back cheer me up make me laugh. Shawn and I could talk for hours politics, God, History, Parallel Dimensions or obscure Trivia. Shawn was my friend, my buddy, and my Brother. He made me laugh, He made me cry. But above all he made me proud to call him my Brother. Shawn made my life brighter by just being in it. I will never again here that sweet laugh of his. I will never again be able to turn to him when I need him. I will never again be able to wave to him, and cheer for him as I would sit in the audience of his performances. I will never again be able to pet him or make over him as only sisters do.This is a loss I will never ever get over. Shawn you are the bravest man I ever knew. A very large piece of my heart went with you Baby and my heart shall forever be broken. Shawn you are the best brother I could ever hope to have. I will carry a part of you with me Always. I will Love you and miss you all the days of my life.
Sing and make beautiful music with the Angels Baby!
Until we meet Again

Your Devoted Sister, Mitzi

A fund has been established in memory of Shawn.
All proceeds will go to Shawn's family.
Please mail donations to:

Shawn Lane Memorial Fund
Bank of Bartlett
6281 Stage Road
Memphis, TN 38134
Phone: (901) 382-6600

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