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Throughout his career, as a guitarist in Tony Williams' Lifetime and in Miles Davis' band, along with his stunning work with his own Mahavishnu Orchestra and then as a solo artist, John McLaughlin has established himself as one of the most important voices in fusion.
But if you think that the only kind of music McLaughlin listens to in his private life is ruled by odd-time signatures, exotic scales and displays of virtuosic genius, think again. Turns out, the guitarist loves nothing more than a good old pop tune.
“I love pop music," McLaughlin says. "A melodic pop song, especially if it has good vocal – I'm always going to be a fan. I've got such a broad range of favorites. I'm into Asian underground, Indian music, classical, blues, jazz and rock – and pop. Why shouldn't I like what's on the radio if it's good?"
McLaughlin acknowledges that many of his peers in the fusion world take a dim view of the Billboard Top 200, but in his eyes they're missing out. "To be honest, a lot of jazz bores me to tears," he says. "If jazz doesn’t make your body move, then there’s something wrong with it. Yes, it’s got to have the harmonic side and the intellectual side, but it’s also got to have a sexuality and a sensuality. If you don’t want to groove, then the music isn’t working. Change it!"
On the following pages, McLaughlin scrolls through his iPad and his iPod Nano and names his not-so-guilty pleasures, five decidedly un-fusion-y songs that make him want to sing, dance and groove.
On 11 June, John McLaughlin begins a US tour, which includes a highly anticipated performance at the Bonnaroo Festival, along with a three-night stand at New York City's Blue Note Club. Click here for details.