The Greatest Musician on the Planet?

Bruce Hornsby

The title of this article is eye catching but not true. There are so many great musicians in a plethora of genres that this statement is subjective. How do you compare  jazz to classical to rock to rhythm and blues to country? You can’t because the greatest musician is a personal choice.

From Williamsburg, the tidewater region of Virgina, hails a gifted talent and national treasure. He had a hit album and singles on the radio from his first album in the mid 80’s. He tired of being a pop singer and wanted to be musically relevant. During the 90’s He:  went solo, toured with the jam band the Grateful Dead, won a Grammy for best bluegrass album, formed the Noisemakers( a jazz band), and wrote hit songs for other artists like the Don Henley of the Eagles. His album sales declined but his concerts were in high demand as he catered to a cult following. He had become a musician’s musician, one that other musicians followed. His collaborators include Bob Dylan,  Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Garcia, Pat Methany, Bela Fleck, and Ricky Skaggs.

At the age of 40 he decided to work on his piano virtuosity. Elton John said that his piano playing on Raitt’s 1991 hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me” made him “seek perfection. It is sublime.”

Bruce Hornsby is a humble man with a rich musical history. As Elton John said ” He is one of the best pianists — if not the best — out there”.

His concerts are legendary. Audience members write song titles on sheets of paper and leave them on the edge of the stage. Bruce picks up the 100-200 sheets of paper off the edge of the stage and takes them to his piano. He never brings a set list. As he rifles through the sheets he picks a song and starts playing. However, he abhors repetition so the songs are derivations of the originals. He may play part of a disco song, a Beatles song, a Grateful Dead song, or morph into a medley of songs, His band is challenged every night. Some fans leave due to his strong improvisational stylings but others love his risk taking. He is a virtuoso piano player, adventurous accordion player, and adequate dulcimer player. One of the joys of his shows is that each is a  creation inspired by the moment. A unique opportunity to observe an artist creating.

He is on tour this summer and I highly recommend attending one of his shows. He will be touring with the Noisemakers, joining the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary concerts, and a few solo concerts included.


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