The recent passing of Johnny Fean, the legendary guitarist of the Horslips, has left a void in the world of music. For those who may not be familiar, the Horslips were a group of musicians who rose to fame in the 1970s, fusing traditional Irish music with rock and roll to create a new sound that would ultimately leave a lasting impact on the music world.
At the heart of this sound was Fean’s unique and unmistakable guitar playing. His style was heavily influenced by traditional Celtic music, but he was equally comfortable playing rock and roll riffs, and this unique blend made him a vital part of the Horslips’ sound. Often doubling up the lead riff with a flute part, the riffs were catchy (Trouble With a Capital T, Dearg Doom) .
Fean’s approach to playing the guitar was characterized by a deep understanding of the traditional Celtic music that he grew up with. He was a master of the intricate fingerpicking and melodic phrasing that are hallmarks of Irish music, and he brought these techniques to bear in the context of rock and roll, creating a sound that was truly unique.
The Horslips’ fusion of rock and traditional Irish music was a game changer that still resonates today. They were among the first to experiment with this fusion, and their success paved the way for countless other bands who would go on to explore this musical territory in the years that followed. The band were largely unknown outside of Ireland, but toured relentlessly in Ireland, with no ballroom being too small or remote for them/
The Horslips’ impact on the music world cannot be overstated. They brought traditional Irish music to a wider audience, and in doing so, helped to preserve and promote a rich cultural heritage. They also proved that there was a place for this music in the world of rock and roll, and they inspired countless musicians to explore the possibilities of combining traditional music with modern sounds. One of my favourite stories is how the band taught the J Geils band the riff for their main hit, Centerfold.
Johnny Fean was a vital part of this legacy, and his contributions to the world of guitar and music will be remembered for years to come. His unique blend of Celtic and rock influences was truly ahead of its time, and his influence can be heard in the work of countless musicians who have followed in his footsteps.
The passing of Johnny Fean is a sad loss for the music world, but his legacy lives on through his contributions to the Horslips and the world of guitar. His unique approach to playing the guitar, and his role in the creation of a new musical style that fused traditional Celtic music with rock and roll, helped to change the face of music forever. His influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.