Mike Bloomfield: The Guitar Hero's Guitar Hero

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Blues guitar virtuoso Mike Bloomfield's 1969 album 'It's Not Killing Me.'

Michael Bloomfield grew up in relatively wealthy, suburban Chicago in the 1950's, but he was always drawn more to the gritty clubs on the city's South Side than to the trappings of a middle-class lifestyle. Those clubs were home to blues greats like Muddy Waters and Sleepy John Estes. Bloomfield apprenticed himself to these bluesmen, and soon, this young, Jewish, white kid was one of the finest guitarists of his generation.

Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke calls him "rock's greatest forgotten guitar hero" -- a hero even to greats like Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. 

While most people are familiar with Bob Dylan's iconoclastic "Dylan goes electric" performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, fewer know that that's Bloomfield making all that glorious noise. He was Dylan's man on rock milestones "Like A Rolling Stone" and a blazing "Maggie's Farm." 

Bloomfield went on to pioneer some of the most far-out and daring electric guitar work of the 1960's, but his star faded in the '70s, due in equal parts to changing trends and his own self-sabotaging tendencies. He was dead by 1981, at just 36.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Fricke reflects on the lasting legacy of Mike Bloomfield, as documented in a new box set From His Head To His Heart To His Hands.  

This segment originally aired on Feb. 6, 2014.

 

Click here to listen to David Fricke's personal playlist of Mike Bloomfield gems. 

View the trailer for the new documentary about Mike Bloomfield, Sweet Blues: