We’ve all had those people we envied because they were just too good. For people in the funny names-loving universe, Yngwie Johann Malmsteen is one of those people. For one, Yngwie Malmsteen is a tremendously tremendous name, but the even better thing is that it’s his second awesome name. He was born Lars Johann Yngve Lannerbäck in Sweden back in the day, and just turned 50 a month ago.
But celebrating funny named semi-centenarians isn’t the purpose of the blog. This blog is about great people with greater names, and Yngwie easily meets those criteria. Despite having a name (pronounced “ing-vay” that sounds like an essential part of the Pig Latin vocabulary, in the 80’s, Yngwie Malmsteen established himself as one of the greatest guitarists alive, with a distinct neo-classical style of heavy metal. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?
It is (as evidenced by the above rendition of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s 5th symphony), but in an impressive way. The funny named Steve Huey said that:
“Yngwie Malmsteen is arguably the most technically accomplished hard rock guitarist to emerge during the ’80s.”
and he’s probably right. Malmsteen is a guitarist’s guitarist, playing technically difficult pieces with speed, ease and accuracy that easily elude the average listener, and frankly, most guitarists as well. I’ve been playing for 12 or 13 years now, and only recently have begun to appreciate the skill Malmsteen brings to his craft.
He burst onto the scene at age 19 in 1983 with bands Steeler and Alcatrazz, and followed that up in 1984 with his first solo album Rising Force, which reached #14 in Sweden and #60 in the US. He released three more albums between then and 1988, with each of them reaching the top 20 in Sweden and Japan, and the top 60 in the US. 1992’s Fire and Ice became a member of one of music’s rarest categories – an instrumental-only album that reached #1 on the pop charts, when it topped the charts in Japan – and although North American sales have tailed off recently, he continues to crack the charts in Sweden and Japan with his albums, which he releases prolifically.
Since 1983, Yngwie Malmsteen has released a new studio album every 14 months. To put that into perspective, two years is approximately the time it takes Taylor Swift to get into a relationship, end a relationship, and write and release a whole album worth of songs about it, and she’s only been at it for four albums. Now imagine her doing that nearly twice as fast, for thirty years. That’s what Yngwie has done.
And he does it in style too. He has said that although Jimi Hendrix didn’t influence his style, seeing a clip at age 7 of Hendrix burning a guitar helped light a flame in the young Malmsteen, inspiring him to become a musician. He is well known for his 1972 Blonde Fender Stratocaster, which is affectionately known as “The Duck”, and his collection of 40 Rolex watches, some worth in excess of $100,000. That’s what talent can buy you.
These days, Yngwie spends his time in Miami, Florida with his wife and son, named Antonio (after classical musician Antonio Vivaldi). How has he adjusted to the change of countries? Well, I’ll let you hear this spirited rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and judge for yourself.
That was quite the finale, wasn’t it? 🙂