Who's Michael Jackson's guitarist? Meet Orianthi Panagaris

Orianthi, Michael Jackson's guitarist
Orianthi, Michael Jackson's guitarist

Video of Michael Jackson's final rehearsal has been released, with the singer looking in relatively lithe form just two days before his death.

But it's not Jackson you want to know about. MusicRadar has been inundated with requests for information about his guitarist, who shares centre-stage in the rehearsal footage of They Don't Care About Us.

Watch the video below, Michael Jackson's final rehearsal.

Who's Orianthi?

But who's the guitarist? She's called Orianthi, and here's what you need to know.

1. She was born in Adelaide, Australia, in January 1985.

2. Orianthi started playing piano at the age of three, moving to acoustic guitar at six, and soon after studying classical guitar.

3. At 11 she saw Carlos Santana play live and begged her parents for a PRS guitar of her own.

4. At 14, she sent demos of her electric playing to Santana, along with a biography and some classical guitar pieces. To Orianthi's surprise, when Santana was next in Adelaide she received a personal invitation asking her to come down to soundcheck and bring her guitar. She ended up playing on-stage with Santana.

Steve vai and orianthi

Steve vai and orianthi

"If I was going to pass the baton to somebody, she would be my first choice" Carlos Santana

5. She played live with Steve Vai (pictured) at 15.

6. Carlos Santana says Orianthi is "an angel that can play guitar... a lady who has an incredible future", and has her signed to his personal management company.

7. Santana also says, as she matures as a player: "It's not cute any more. It's seriously ass-whupping. If I was going to pass the baton to somebody, she would be my first choice."

Live at NAMM 2006

Next page: Gear, remembering Jackson and a lick lesson

8. On Santana's recommendation, she became an official PRS endorsee. "I'm on the PRS website under 'O' which is very, very cool," she says. "I don't know how to explain it, I just love their guitars."

9. On those PRS guitars she says: "I play a PRS Custom 22. I learned on a Custom 24. It was set for a country guitarist, so it had a really high action. It had .10s (string gauge) so it was kind of hard to play, I really had to work at it. I think it worked well for me in the end because picking up other guitars now, it's easier to play them. So if you begin with heavier-gauged strings on an acoustic you really work the muscles in your hands. I use .9's now.

"A girl playing electric guitar is seen a bit like a guy doing ballet"

"I like to just plug in and play, I don't use a lot of effects. At home I use a Hughes & Kettner and in the States I use Bogner. With my effects, usually I'll use a delay, some reverb, a Vox Wah or Morley Two."

10. On being a high-profile woman guitarist she says: "I'd like to be able to get more girls to play guitar. I think with a girl playing electric guitar, sometimes it's seen a bit like a guy doing ballet. All the people I learned guitar from have been guys. There are some great female players like Bonnie Raitt and Jennifer Batten but very few.

"Being promoted as a bubble-gum type artist that has one hit and it's all over is not something I want to do. I want a long career. I want to continue to play guitar and have as much guitar in there as possible in a commercial song without being too indulgent."

11. About working with Michael Jackson, she 'Tweeted' after his sudden death: "I'm looking back on some wonderful memories and feeling really sad.

"MJ was ready and was taken far too soon. He was such a wonderful person. RIP."

Watch Orianthi demonstrate her Guitar Run Of The Week #2 from her YouTube channel.


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