R.I.P. Earl Scruggs

It’s always sad for me when people of legendary talents pass away, especially when it’s someone who had a talent doing something that I happen to dabble in.

Thus, as a musician, because I deeply revere the masters of the art, I experience their loss acutely, almost as if the person was someone I knew, and it feels like I did really know them on some level, because they ultimately shared so much of themselves in their music.

And so it was this morning as I learned of the passing of Bluegrass music legend Earl Scruggs.

There are many items in the news today on this great banjo innovator and virtuoso, so I won’t go into details of his career here, except to say that he developed what became the quintessential Bluegrass banjo style that so many players after him adopted. Bluegrass is practically synonymous with the Scruggs-style three-finger rolling picking technique. (I would highly recommend a moving tribute to Earl that Steve Martin wrote in New Yorker earlier this year, a love letter to a man who deeply inspired him and with whom he was eventually fortunate enough to have played with and befriended.)

For me, I’ll always think of Earl Scruggs in the context of the great fortune I’ve had to make music over the years with a dear friend who plays the banjo, and even though she plays the older clawhammer style, she was the gateway for my learning of the banjo in general.

And now, without further ado, Earl’s signature tune, humbly (chuckle) named Earl Scruggs Breakdown:

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