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Michael Hedges

One of the most innovative and acclaimed solo guitarists of his era, self-described "violent acoustic" artist Michael Hedges rose to success on the strength of a unique performing style that utilized harmonics and picking to create the impression of multiple guitars playing simultaneously. Born in Sacramento, CA, in 1953, Hedges studied classical guitar while in college, subsequently earning a degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. In 1980, he enrolled in Stanford University's renowned electronic music department, and while performing in nearby Palo Alto was spotted by Windham Hill label founder Will Ackerman, who immediately signed him to a contract; Hedges' debut LP, Breakfast in the Field, appeared in 1981.

In the years to follow, Hedges began developing his so-called "man-band" performances, which favored a two-handed tapping style of soloing achieved with the use of a custom-made, double-necked acoustic/bass guitar. His affiliation with Windham Hill prompted many to label him a new age musician, but he bristled at such categorizations and instead offered "violent acoustic," "heavy mental," "new edge," and "deep-tissue gladiator guitar." He often flirted with rock and pop, and included in his repertoire acclaimed covers of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower." With his second album, 1984's Aerial Boundaries, Hedges earned his first Grammy nomination, and with the release of 1985's Watching My Life Go By, Windham Hill agreed to create a subsidiary imprint, Open Air, to further distance his music from the increasing confinements of the new age tag.

With 1987's concert LP Live on the Double Planet, Hedges debuted a pair of compositions performed on the rare harp guitar, and on 1990's Taproot, he delivered his first vocal performance since his 1985 release, Watching My Life Go By. The record was Hedges' last for four years, however, and when he resurfaced with The Road to Return, his music was significantly different -- vocals were now the rule, not the exception, and in addition to acoustic guitar, he played flute, drums, synthesizer, harmonica, and electric guitar. 1996's Oracle signified a return to acoustic performance, but the record was the last to be issued during Hedges' own lifetime. On December 2, 1997, his body was discovered near the wreckage of a car accident just outside of his native Mendocino, CA; he was only 43 at the time of his death. His final recording, the acoustic "Java Man," appeared on the 1998 compilation The Sounds of Wood and Steel. Torched followed a year later. The compilations Best of Michael Hedges (2000), Platinum & Gold Collection (2003), and Pure Michael Hedges (2006) were all released posthumously on Windham Hill. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Pure Michael Hedges

1. Ragamuffin

2. Because It's There

3. Chava's Song

4. The Streamlined Man

5. Aerial Boundaries

6. Rikki's Shuffle

7. The Funky Avocado

8. Bensusan

9. Ursa Major

10. Jitterboogie

11. Rickover's Dream

12. I Carry Your Heart

13. Layover

14. Java Man

15. Hot Type

16. If I Needed Someone


Track List: The Best Of Michael Hedges

1. The Funky Avocado

2. Silent Anticipations

3. Aerial Boundaries

4. Rickover's Dream

5. The Streamlined Man

6. Woman Of The World

7. All Along The Watchtower

10. Ritual Dance

13. Ignition

14. Jitterboogie

15. Oracle

16. Arrowhead

17. Java Man


Track List: Live On The Double Planet

1. All Along The Watchtower

2. Because It's There

3. Silent Anticipations

4. Ready Or Not

5. A Love Bizarre

6. Breakfast In The Field

7. Rikki's Shuffle

8. Woman Of The World

9. The Double Planet

10. The Funky Avocado

11. Come Together

12. Two Days Old


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Wish I'd seen him perform. Love his music.
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jwallace10uc o , How fortunate you were to grok Hedges' contribution s so early. I'm in awe of his contribution s to guitar music and am sorry somebody in this thread evidently offended you — doubt it was intentional because everyone here seemingly mourns his death and loves both the man and his music.
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A master!!!
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Saw him live seven times, not enough. Miss him.
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Hedges was a pioneer. McKee might be good, but Hedges was obviously a strong influence for him. Also, don't talk to people that way. We all need to look out for each other. You need to be a good person to appreciate good music.
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Read the Bio he died in 97.
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cuffychamber l a i n
I love Michael Hedges and would love to see him in concert!
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His music has and continues to inspire me in countless ways. I am sorry I never got to see him live. His time on this Earth ended way too soon.
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He got me started playing open tuning and finger style acoustic guitar after I broke my left hand. I learned to play again because of him and similar artists in that genre. With only 3 fingers and some right hand tapping at first in dadgad tuning and then, open G and drop D and, after several months and some physical therapy I was right back to playing, but even better. Rest in Peace Michael. God called you home to play for Him because He likes your playing...:)
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I saw him so many times. San Juan Capistrano sitting on picnic tables watching him do Come Together as still gives me chicken skin. Forever Missed
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caught him opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash acoustic tour. Great show.
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Caught hi opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash acoustic tour
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First saw him at that wonderful venue, Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, I think it was very early 80's? 80 or 81, he actually opened for Pat Metheny who I was already very much appreciating . Great energy, I recall one guy near me saying he liked him more than Pat because he just really let go! He was jumping around, hair flying, pounding on guitar, glad I got to see him!
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He lived in my neighborhood , I played guitar at the time and he was so interested in music, you could see his eyes brighten with the first strum of a stringed instrument. more later.
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Sorry I meant to say the late 80's
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I saw Michael perform 2 times in the late 90's. The first time was at San Diego State' venue, the again at UCSD. His music enraptures me. It seems like a dream, because it is so beautiful, I cannot believe it is real. He was so sweet and endearing on stage..I miss you Michael
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I saw Hedges probably ten times before his passing. He was one of those artists that made me rethink the instrument and how to approach my own playing. He got a little weirder as the years progressed but overall I think Michael was as important to the guitar as any player past or present.
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This guy, amd tommy emmanuel are the best players in the fact that they can play really good but they can play a wide variety of styles and do them expertly. That is why overall they are the best.
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i saw him in marquette michigan in 1997 weeks before he died. what an amazing artist. he had so much joy in is work...and he thought he was funny and laughed at his own jokes. i am so grateful to have been able to see him live. :)
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Saw Michael Hedges and Bobby McFerrin in the late 80's in Boulder, Colorado at the Chautauqua Auditorium. Great show!
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Agree with Okie - the fact that he was from a small town in Oklahoma is part of the story! He definitely talked about that and was proud of it. I saw him about 10 times. Always amazing that one guy could do all of that playing.
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He will always be missed for his music.
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I first heard MH at the Pheonix restaurant in Big Sur on our way to be married and a honeymoon in Carmel. Heard it playing in the gift shop, bought the CD, and was hooked.
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enviro_geolo g i s t
My wife and I discovered Hedges while staying with a buddy who was a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park back in 85. He was such a remarkable musician - he truly created on a blank canvas. His stuff was his own...No one can even try to copy it. I regret his life ended so soon.
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I had great first date sex with someone I ended up marrying... fueled by Aerial Boundaries. Delish!
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Hedges is STILL from Enid, Oklahoma!!!! What moron wrote this crap and why won't Pandora change it? Several people have commented over the years. It's just plain wrong!!!!

I got to see him a few times back in OK, once with Kottke. Simply amazing and to this day some of my most powerful live music experiences.

A fellow Okie...
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LIke someone else here...saw him open for CSN in Omaha. Truely was a talented musician...
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Simply the best. Saw him in college in the early 90's, then his final show, in Baltimore a few days before the accident. So glad I went to that show.
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I also was blessed with seeing him perform live and by far the best guitarist of this era....I have heard Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards live and he is more....
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I was blessed enough to see Michael Hedges twice in concert, the last time just a few months before his untimely death. He was a true genius.
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I cannot describe the beauty that filled my heart and soul the first time I saw Michael perform at SDSU in 1989 or 90 ...his music is magic, he ismagic...mi s s i n g you Michael.glad that for this venue to keep you close to my heart...
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He opened for Crosby, Stills, and Nash in San Antonio's outdoor Sunken Gardens Theater some years ago. I went to see Michael, and, well, why not, stuck around for CSN, who praised him highly on stage. He was playing that crazy double necked guitar and wore a helmet microphone that freed him to bounce around the stage with all that energy. A highlight was his playing Ritual Dance in the sound check, while we queued up, waiting for the doors to open. So sweet!
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Listening to Michael Hedges music is letting our fine tuned ears travel in another dimension! Thanks for it all! R.I.P. Michael
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skyvalleymus i c
Saw Michael with Leo Kottke in Atlanta several years back. What an amazing evening of guitar virtuosity. Love Come Together.
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Texture@Colo r i s t h i s o n e w a s
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the real deal. a million million times better than blandy mckee or eric migraine
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Had the pleasure of knowing Michael from childhood through adulthood. Such a sweet man! Miss you on many levels Michael!
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We were blessed to see him perform twice in small venues. He was the most engaging, humorous, spiritual & gifted musician I have ever seen. It was tragic to lose him before we were ready to let him go. It still makes me SO sad. He has enriched our lives & I believe him to be an angel that walked among us for a short time. By the way... his live performance was captured (laserdisc) as part of a Wynham Hill Sampler. (maybe it's still available? )
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I saw him twice as well in the early daze (84-87?) of his music.Kalama z o o , MI. One tour was with Leo Kottke. Was amazing... to say the least. They both did their thing (s), and I never expected them to do anything together, but they did. Mike came out with a very small guitar with Leo, and made a crack about borrowing the guitar from his son. I knew better, as I could see CF Martin on the headstock. Was a size 5. Both being on the eccentric side, was a real HOOT of a show.
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Saw him in 94' in Charlotte, NC , and it was as moving as his cd's. The playing was unreal, and he was interactive with the audience. A one of a kind guitar talent, gone too soon!
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Miss you Michael. Remember seeing him perform in the 80's. One of a kind. Funky guitars, too.
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A true master and gentleman. I had the pleasure to see him play a number of times in Baltimore early 1980's. Another real treat was an opportunity to to sit next to him during a flight home from a business trip from California. My family was with me and we wondered that his guitar might be checked in as regular luggage. Upon leaving and sensing we were wondering about his guitar, he pulled it out from a larger overhead storage compartment up front and looked back at us to confirm its safety!
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leitourgon, I'd have to agree, but I'm kind of biased. Scott Burwell is my brother-in-l a w . We used to play music together once & a while. I've felt the same passion in his playing since the time I met him 20 years ago as I felt when I saw Michael twice in concert during the Taproot and the The Road to Return tours. He even started a company a few years ago that produces high quality, hand made harp guitars that mimic the Dyer harp guitar that Michael used to play. Definitely check him out.
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If you like Michael.... Check out this guy! www.scottbur w e l l . c o m
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Beautiful Music brought by a wonderful talent.
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Had the opportunity to see him play a few months before he passed….I still sit and listen to him often. I love to listen and reflect on my life. We miss you Michael
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I discovered Michael Hedges when stationed on the island of Crete in 1985. I would sit and listen to Aerial Boundries drinking Kenya AA and smoking cigarettes while looking out over the Mediterranea n Sea in the moonlight. The experience is unforgettabl e and I feel like an addict sometimes in that I ache for that time, but it's gone.
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He was gone before I doscovered him. How I wish I could curl up in a cozy seat in a small auditorium and hear him play live.
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Saw him at an old church in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. Way back when Windham Hill was just getting started. I was a kid, now I'm old and his music is still amazing. Aerial Boundries... s i m p l y timeless.
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I am grateful to have seen him in concert twice, one concert in a small town theater in northwest Washington. I wish we could still hear him live... but the memory of his gift still echoes in my heart and mind.
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