Guitar legend Joe Satriani celebrated his 65th birthday on July 15th. His longrtime freind and former student, Steve Vai, paid tribute to the occasion via social media with the following message:
“Sixty-five years ago today, the Universe brought forth to this blue sphere the gift of one of our most cherished musicians. Happy Birthday to my greatest musical mentor since I was 12 years old, and dear brother Joe Satriani.
It would be impossible to quantify the effect Joe has had on my musical life, and so many others. In describing Joe once, my wife Pia put it so well when she said, ‘Joe is like the Grand Canyon; solid, deep and forever.’
His melodies have enchanted us for decades, and his inspired control of the guitar has lifted us out of the murky waters of shredfesting, into the realms of melodic richness, and at 65 years old there’s no sign of him slowing down. It’s still so odd to me that two kids from Long Island that grew up in the same town could be so joined at the hips in their musical journey through life.
Joe, you are exceptional and we are grateful.”
In the latest episode of the Striking A Chord podcast, Vai discussed his path from 12-year-old student under the tutelage of Joe Satriani to full-blown rock guitar god. Additional topics include the evolution of guitar playing, the development of Vai’s showmanship (especially while playing with David Lee Roth), the difference between discipline and passion, the story behind his monumental song “For The Love Of God”, and more.
On taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani starting at age 12
Vai: “I didn’t know anything. I mean, I was noodling around with a guitar in my bedroom before that, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just playing by ear and I didn’t know how to keep the strings tuned. In the beginning, it was basically like finger exercises and just things to kind of get my dexterity going, but it was very well-balanced. My lessons evolved very organically, he was an incredible teacher. He was able to see what it was I was interested in and what I needed to know in order to help me figure things out for myself.
I would bring him songs and I’d say, ‘Can you show me how to play this song…?’ And it would be like Led Zeppelin, or I remember when the Bad Company record came out (in 1974), I was asking him, and he had just heard the song a few times and he could play them. He was actually playing the riffs that the guitarist on the record was playing, and I was fascinated. I was like, ‘You really can do this.’
I always felt like I was struggling. I wasn’t struggling to keep up; I always felt like the room had no roof, it had no ceiling. When I was in Joe’s room learning, I never felt as though I was going to run out of mentorship. There was always this greatness about Joe that always seemed to surprise and delight. He was always teaching one new lesson after another, just revealed a wealth of information and almost what seemed to me at the time, infinite depth of musicality.”