Rock and Roll All Night: Self-Taught Music Legends

Photo Credit: By Batiste Safont - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

For most people, the dream of being a rock and roll musician ends after school age when they didn’t make the most of their music lessons. However, there are a small portion of dedicated folks who have taught themselves how to play an instrument and have gone on to have great success. Many of the greatest names in rock and roll are self taught musicians and are also some of the best guitarists of their generation. Nowadays, the internet makes it much easier to pick up a new skill, but how easy was it for some of these guitar legends? Let’s take a look at some of the greatest self-taught musicians of all time.


1. Noel Gallagher

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Gallagher might be better acquainted with royals nowadays but he continues to play in his band The High Flying Birds, which has been hailed as a great reincarnation of the rock and roll legend. This will come as no surprise to Oasis fans, as Noel was always considered the most talented of the two brothers, both of whom were self-taught. Legend has it that as a kid Noel was put on probation after stealing from a corner shop. Out of boredom, he started to learn the guitar, and thus a defining band of the ’90s was born. Now into their 50s, both Gallaghers show no signs of slowing down. If this Lottoland article is anything to go by, it’s probably for the best, considering that rock music may be good for your health.

2. David Bowie

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You would be forgiven for thinking that David Bowie was given a rich musical upbringing by musical parents. Even though his mother was a waitress and his father worked for the charity Barnardo’s, that didn’t stop Bowie from taking a keen interest in art and music. At the age of six, he was selected as a gifted and talented child and, whilst the school choirmaster labelled his voice as “average,” it didn’t stop others from labelling him as “vividly artistic.” Inspired by Elvis Presley, Bowie began to teach himself an array of instruments, starting first with the ukulele and progressing to the guitar. At the age of 15, he formed his first band, leaving school at 16 and declaring to his mother that he was pursuing a career as a pop star. He went on to influence generations of music-lovers with his psychedelic, genre-crossing music, having taught himself how to play most of his instruments.

3. Joni Mitchell

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Canadian Joni Mitchell is often overlooked as a seminal musician, most likely because she wasn’t a man in a major group. However, her socially and environmentally conscious music has gone on to define songwriting for the following generations. In her late teens, country music began to gain popularity and Mitchell decided that she would learn to play the guitar. However, her mother disapproved of this and she learned the ukulele instead, teaching herself how to play the guitar in her spare time. Mitchell is the proud winner of nine Grammys, and more recently Rolling Stone has named her as one of the most influential musicians of the late 20th Century.

It’s never too late to pick up a new skill. If you fancy yourself as the next Gallagher, grab a cheap guitar from your local shop and get to learning — and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a midlife crisis!

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