Stevie Ray Vaughan portrait slow culture

TUESDAY MUSEDAY – Stevie Ray Vaughan

Almost thirty years after his death in a helicopter accident, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s legacy seems untouched. SRV’s music keeps on inspiring and motivating young and advanced guitar players on their journey to soulful music playing and mastery. But that’s not all.

As John Mayer rightfully expressed while introducing the Dallas-born music prodigy at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Stevie’s music is “a rage without the anger, it’s devotional”. How could a blues player have such an impact in roughly eight years of fame?

Here are our answers !

Family values

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan in the studio GIF
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan working on the Family Style album.

“For a while there, I was pretty lost,” he says. “It took me some time to gain the perspective to realize that I had to move on and live my life. It was hard, though. Still is. A big part of me was gone in an instant. Life isn’t supposed to be like that.”

– Jimmie Vaughan on life without his younger brother Stevie Ray.

Family was central in SRV’s life. Did you know that among legal complications, Stevie’s decision to not tour with David Bowie at the occasion of the 1983 Serious Moonlight Tour was partly motivated by Bowie’s aversion for Lenny, his wife at the time?

From an early age, his brother Jimmie became an icon for him. An icon that he would follow without mimicking or upstaging. Their love and brotherhood reached its peak at the occasion of the recording of the 1990 Family Style album, produced by former recording companion and Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers.

Once trouble with drug and alcohol addiction, SRV instinctively turned to his mom. Not in a childish way, but in the way of someone knowing where home truly is when the world is just too much.

Pushing the edge, humbly

I’m just doing the best I can now to keep this going… trying to grow up and remain young at the same time.

– Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Like the resounding majority of texas blues guitarists, Stevie Ray didn’t know much about music theory. That didn’t stop him from taking the world by storm (an other John Mayer quote!).

Practice wasn’t SRV only way to mastery. Resilience mainly was. Heartbroken after his alleged Montreux ’82 fiasco, he came back in 1985 on the same festival only to take all the votes he widely deserved. Even early on with Triple Threat Revue, Stevie Ray preferred a precarious life of artistic freedom to a comfortable opportunist attitude.

The gift of generosity

I hit rock bottom, but It is the human things that make life good, the unexpected kindness, the friendly note, the bracing word, the neighbour’s extra loaf of bread she leaves at our back door.

– Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Generosity epitomized SRV’s life conduct.

After having managed to take blues music to a mainstream and worldwide audience, Stevie Ray didn’t forget about his roots. His performance at Carnegie Hall included appearances from Angela Strehli, Jimmie Vaughan and Dr. John among many others.

Far from moralism, Stevie Ray took position against drugs publicly after his 1986 recovery, sharing his life experience with his public at his concerts. On a lighter note, did you know that he used to put glue on the tip of his fingers to keep on satisfying his audience after his former 3 hour long sets? 

Openness is the key.

Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.

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2 comments

  1. Avatar
    Charles Sawyer

    I met Stevie Ray at Fitzgerald’s in Houston in 1980 or ‘81. The one thing that came through for me was not only his enthusiasm for music, but also his encyclopedic knowledge of blues. He really couldn’t help playing like he did. He told me “If I think about what I’m doing, I f*ck up!” I try to embrace that in my own playing, and I encourage all others to embrace it. Go for it!

    Reply

    1. Marc Louis-Boyard
      Marc Louis-Boyard

      I love listening to bootlegs from that period. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think these were the times he was experiencing with tuning his guitar even lower than his usual half step down tuning. Thank you very much for sharing your memories here, it’s precious.

      Reply

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