As a Jesuit priest, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from Rhode Island; became a member of Richard Nixon's White House staff -- his writing and debating skills were a great asset. Left the priesthood and eventually became a pundit and a media icon of sorts; now hosts The McLaughlin Group, the quintessential inside-the-beltway weekly TV shoutfest which has inspired most of the others, and has launched a skit or two on Saturday Night Live.

"Bye, BYE!"

Editor's note: John McLaughlin passed away on August 16, 2016. He was 89 and suffering from prostate cancer.

John McLaughlin was born on January 4, 1942, in Yorkshire, England. His mother was a professional violinist, and he grew up surrounded by music. Choosing early on in his life to play the guitar, he was heavily influenced as a young man by the blues, flamenco, and jazz.

In around 1960, he moved to London, where he began playing professional gigs with blues artists like Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame, and Graham Bond. As he began playing with more and more players, he began exploring the stranger and more complex musics of the time, like free jazz and "modern classical eastern" music. He traveled to Germany and recorded the landmark album His Extrapolation with Gunter Hampel and Tony Oxley. During this time he also played with Dave Holland and John Surman.

Around this time, guitar playing was becoming just about the coolest thing you could do, and McLaughlin was no exception. He was one of the first guitar players to begin blending rock and roll's excitement and intensity with the complexity and chops of jazz. In 1969, he recorded al album with drum legend Tony Williams, then quit the band to record an album called My Goal's Beyond in 1970 with bassist Charlie Haden and percussionist Airto Moreira. Soon after he recorded In a Silent Way and the seminal Bitches Brew with jazz god Miles Davis.

The members of the band that had recorded Bitches Brew wound up forming several fusion bands, one of which was McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. This band set a new standard for complexity, brash playing, and volume in jazz. Drummer Billy Cobham may well rank as the loudest drummer in the history of jazz, and violinist Jerry Goodman and keyboard player Jan Hammer wrote music that bordered on volitile chaos. All this, added to McLaughlin's razor-edge licks made for possibly the closest thing to rockstars jazz ever had. They were noisy and belligerent and brilliant.

Around this same time, McLaughlin began his move towards eastern mysticism. He declared allegiance to guru I. Chinmoy, and began wearing all white. Eventually, Cobham and Hammer left the group, and McLaughlin picked up Jean-Luc Ponty, who had played violin for Frank Zappa, and drummer Narada Michael Walden. This group never quite made the splash of Mahavishnu's first incarnation, and the group disbanded not long after.

In the mid 1970s, McLaughlin renounced electricity, and formed a group called Shakti with Indian violinist L. Shankar and tabla legend Zakir Hussain. McLaughlin began playing a customized guitar had raised frets and sympathetic strings underneath, which created drone sounds much like those of a sitar. In 1978, he shocked the guitar world by teaming up with Larry Coryell and Paco De Lucia as a virtuosic (fabulous) guitar trio. Some critics noted that McLaughlin's playing seemed to be getting over-technical and precise, and almost soul-less; he seemed to need electricity and volume to spark him. After two solo albums Belo Horizonte, and Music Spoken Here, in 1984 he played again with Miles Davis on You're Under Arrest. In 1985, he and Cobham re-formed a violin-less Mahavishnu, this time featuring saxophonist Bill Evans and keyboard player Jim Beard. He has formed and disbanded several groups since then, and has toured the world several times with small groups, solo, symphonies, and a whole variety of other formats.

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