There is an unbelievable amount of music out there, and there are a lot of talented musicians making music. The word musician is typically a “catch all” word used to describe someone that “makes music”. A good musician is usually very talented at a specific instrument; a rhythm or lead guitar player, a piano, organ, or keyboard player, a lead or harmony vocalist, a bass player, a drummer, etc. There are also very talented song writers out there, but not all song writers are also talented performing musicians. Successful musicians are usually a combination of a couple of talents. Being a talented song writer is key, but if you combine that with also being a good vocalist, or a good guitar player, you start to move to the top of the talent food chain.
What is very rare is to be a talented song writer, vocalist, and musician. In this case “musician” meaning someone who is capable of playing just about any instrument you can pick up. That would be Jackie Greene. Besides being a talented song writer, vocalist, and performer, he is also an incredible all around musician, playing acoustic and electric rhythm and lead guitar, piano, organ, harmonica, and who knows what else.
Jackie also seems to be very adept at playing a variety of styles of music. His early work received comparisons to Bob Dylan because he was playing acoustic guitar and harmonica, but really it seems he is like a sponge. He seems to be capable of absorbing an entire genre of music, and then coming out with his own creations, which are true to the era and genre of the particular style of music, but with his own unique style and vision.
If you have ever played an instrument you get a sense of how rare it is to start out with incredible talent. Usually when you are young you play in a garage band and learn to play cover tunes until you find your own voice and talent. At a very early age Jackie started out writing and performing his own songs.
Though Jackie plays a wide range of styles, his music encompasses folk, country, rock, country, jazz, and blues. But I would say the style that best sums him up is Americana. The New York Times very adeptly crowned him the “Prince of Americana”. His music is heartfelt and soulful and captures a depth of the human spirit that is timeless and seems beyond his years. If you are fortunate enough to catch one of his shows, you will likely get to hear a lot of his own songs, some incredible Grateful Dead covers (from being a member of Phil Lesh & Friends) and he has been known to do some Beatle songs that make you think that musically this guy could hang with anyone.
I have had an opportunity to meet a few extremely talented musicians over the years, and in some cases I wish I hadn’t. It seems a lot of times talent also comes with a lot of baggage, and the image of what you would expect a person to be from their musical talents is far from who that actual person is. Jackie also seems to be the exception to that rule. We had an opportunity to see him recently at a show in Pittsburgh, PA, at a show that was a late schedule and not adequately advertised. As a result there were probably only about 50 very lucky people there. I thought I was going to have to win the lottery to be able to hire Jackie to play a private party like that. It couldn’t have been all that exciting for him to play to such a small audience, but he was a consummate professional and played a phenomenal show. Afterwards he graciously stuck around and hung out with everyone, and let people take pictures with him, and signed everything anyone wanted. He was genuinely humble and appreciative of everyone’s support.
If you haven’t heard of Jackie yet, do your self a favor and pick up one of his CD’s or catch one of his shows. The music business is a tough business, requiring touring and being on the road all the time, and it chews a lot of people up and spits them out. At an early age years old Jackie already has a body of work that surpasses a lot people out there, but if the business doesn’t destroy him and he continues to grow, he has the talent and potential to be one of his generations brightest stars.