Link Wray: Father of the Power Chord

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Link Wray is the man who is said to have inspired rock-and-roll legends such as Pete Townsend and Neil Young with his power chord guitar playing. Link Wray was 76 when he died earlier this month at his home in Copenhagen. Wray's style was considered to be the foundation for heavy metal and punk music.


These guitar chords changed rock 'n' roll.

(Soundbite of "Rumble")

NORRIS: Today in the parlance of rock 'n' roll, they're called power chords.

(Soundbite of "Rumble")

NORRIS: And they are the creation of musician Link Wray. Link Wray died earlier this month at his home in Copenhagen. This song "Rumble" in 1958 and remains a seminal piece of rock and roll.

(Soundbite of "Rumble")

NORRIS: The Who's Pete Townshend said he never would have picked up a guitar had it not been for Link Wray and "Rumble." Neil Young was another fan of those basic chords from an electric guitar and played loud.

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NORRIS: Not quite 30, Link Wray said he was looking for something that jazz kings weren't doing, something that country pickers weren't doing, a sound all his own. What he found was raw and throbbing, overamplified waves of electric guitar that connected right to the soul of the teen rebellion.

(Soundbite of "Rumble")

NORRIS: It was so rebellious that some radio stations wouldn't play it. Yet the Link Wray sound continued to influence just about every generation of rockers that followed. Link Wray died on November 5th. His birthday isn't exactly clear, but he was in his 70s. His family said simply, `His heart got tired.'

(Soundbite of "Rumble")

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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