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The Les Paul guitar's greatest hits. Turn it up!

Guitarist and inventor Les Paul, who has died at the age of 94, once said of the birth of rock’n’roll that, “Suddenly it was recognized power was a very important part of music.” Paul himself helped give bands that power with his “Les Paul”¬†guitar, which he originally designed for the Gibson music company in the early ’50s.

For more than half a century now fretmasters of all musical stripes have made good use of Paul’s invention, from jazzer Al Di Meola to reggae icon Bob Marley. But it had the greatest, and loudest, effect on hard rock. Put a Les Paul guitar in the hands of a rock guitarist and it seems he virtually can’t help but grind out a classic riff or memorable solo. As Guns N’ Roses guitarist and Les Paul devotee Slash told EW a couple of years ago, ”It’s a shame so many kids don’t know about Les. He’s this amazing guitar player with a brilliant mind who pioneered a lot of the electronic wizardry and gadgets, like reverb and delay, that guitarists still use.”

While “kids” (of all ages) may not be all that familiar with Paul, they certainly know the music his instruments created. Below you can find just some of the most famous rock standards to benefit from the late guitar (and guitar-making) wizard — one right here, and five more after the jump. Take a couple of minutes to play a song in honor of the great man. And crank it up. That’s what he would have wanted.

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Les Paul dies at 94

Les Paul has died at 94, according to a press release. The electric guitar innovator succumbed to complications from pneumonia at a White Plains, N.Y., hospital today.

Born in Wisconsin, Paul gained some success as a country and jazz guitarist before he began experimenting with the instrument itself in the 1930s. By 1939, he had managed to create something known as “The Log” — a wood-based contraption, primitive by today’s standards, that was nonetheless a major step forward in electric guitar technology.

Paul’s recording career flourished as the 1940s went on, when he backed stars like Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters on a number of hit singles, while releasing his own music. Along the way, he essentially invented modern multi-track recording with 1947’s “Lover (When You’re Near Me),” for which he dubbed over a tape of his own guitar-playing eight times — an unheard-of technique at the time that rapidly become standard throughout the industry.

Paul kept on researching electric guitar design, and in the early 1950s Gibson Guitar introduced the Gibson Les Paul model, based in part on his ideas. Soon it became a key artifact of the rock & roll revolution, wielded by countless axe men in the rising genre: Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and many more all used the Gibson Les Paul to craft some of their most memorable riffs.

Paul continued performing and tinkering in the decades that followed. As recently as 2005, he won two Grammy Awards for his Les Paul & Friends album. “It’s a shame so many kids don’t know about Les,” Slash told EW that year. “It’s hard to keep up with him. He’s 90 years old and he’s out there playing every week!”

More on Les Paul:
Slash sizes up the legendary musician
Les Paul: The Living Legend of the Electric Guitar review
The Legend and the Legacy review

Photo Credit: Andrea Renault/Globe Photos

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