If Richie Sambora were the type of musician immersed in rock and roll for the accolades and glory of being considered a premiere guitar-slinger by peers and critics, he likely would have quit Bon Jovi long ago.
To the delight of his fans, he’s been content to be a major part of the group-think that has propelled his band-mates for thirty years.
In the band documentary “When We Were Beautiful”, Sambora expresses the team mentality when he explains, “The heart of this band is that we’re good musicians. We ain’t here by accident”.
“We’re proud to be a bunch of guys who pour their heart out every night. It’s not inconsistent. This is every night. There’s not a bad f**** show, ever”, he says.
Yet sublimating his talent and keeping his ego in check still doesn’t explain how grossly under-rated Sambora is as a guitarist and vocalist by the industry, en toto. ..and we don’t mean the dog in the ‘Wizard of Oz’.
To coin a phrase from the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, Richie Sambora “gets no respect”; and to paraphrase his own words and meaning from a solo record, he’s simply an “undiscovered soul” when it comes to critical appreciation and acclaim.
In some ways it’s unintentional and understandable: consider that he has yielded his talent and his craft to the luminosity of a human lightning bolt who has been a thrice-decades partner in what they both call a “sexless marriage”, Jon Bon Jovi.
Maybe it’s because he solos on virtually every Bon Jovi song ever produced; or, it’s because the industry perceives him as the whimsical ‘”shucks-who-me?” part of a band that wasn’t supposed to last longer than the hairspray and spandex of the 1980’s.
Either way, beyond Bon Jovi fans Richie just doesn’t get his props.
Sure he’s a respected producer and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (class of 2009) with Jon Bon Jovi, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room remains his name missing from ‘Best Guitarist’ lists.
Robert Plant had Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney had John Lennon, and Mick Jagger had Keith Richards. Yet the common denominator for all of those duos is that Page, Lennon and Richards are all considered top-notch guitarists, and are all anointed so by industry standards Rolling Stone and Spin magazines and Billboard.
Yet take a close look at the Rolling Stone magazine list of the 'Top 100 Guitarists' and you’ll find them all there, with Willie Nelson thrown in for good measure!
Seriously, even if you’re NOT a Richie Sambora lover, Willie Nelson on that list over Mr. Bluesman? It’s nothing short of a Critic FAIL.
To their credit, Guitar World magazine was so incensed by who didn't make the list in a Rolling Stone poll from 2004 that they released their own poll in answer to the rolled stoners, and Sambora was listed at #58.
The bottom line? The oodles of lists Sambora isn’t on is far more prolific than the ones he is, and if Sambora is bothered by it, he never shows it, but he and Jon Bon Jovi are aware of the lack of critical ‘endorsement’.
“To tell you the honest-to-God truth”, Jon says in “When We Were Beautiful”, if we had had everybody patting us on the back for the last twenty years I’d have gotten fat and old and lazy; it would have been a lot easier than keeping the chip on your shoulder and going, “Gotta fight, gotta fight.” But that’s sort of motivational. I find it to be the reason you wake up in the morning”.
End part 1
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