Leslie West Useless from Mountain at 75
Leslie West, singer and guitarist for the hard rock band Mountain, has died, Rolling Stone reports, and a representative has confirmed Pitchfork. As a pioneer of “heavy” guitar playing, the influence of West’s work can be felt in various genres, from heavy metal to hip-hop. He was 75 years old; The cause of death was cardiac arrest.
The native New Yorker, who grew up in the Tristate area, started his career in a band called Vagrants before breaking up with producer Felix Pappalardi, who later produced the legendary Cream album Disraeli Gears. Together they formed a new group called Mountain, which took the name of West’s recently produced solo album by Pappalardi. The band had only played a handful of shows before being booked for Woodstock in 1969, an opportunity they were offered by chance to share an agent with Jimi Hendrix.
Mountain’s real debut climbing! was released in 1970. The opening track “Mississippi Queen” is her best-known song to this day and is considered a staple of hard rock. The band’s most notable line-up – West, Pappalardi, drummer Corky Laing, and keyboardist Steve Knight – would split after just two years. West then played with Jack Bruce and Lain from Cream in the power trio West, Bruce and Laing, before reuniting Mountain with new members in 1973.
Famous guitarists like Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, and the late Eddie Van Halen respected West, who was known for his searing riffs and melodic playing. Outside of rock, however, his legacy extends to rap music; Woodstock’s recording of Mountain’s song “Long Red” has been sampled on countless hip-hop tracks, including JAY-Z’s “99 Problems” and Kanye West’s “The Glory”.
Although he would revive Mountain for more albums over the years – the last one, Masters of War 2007, being a collection of Bob Dylan covers – Leslie West recorded and performed primarily as a solo artist until his death. His last solo LP Soundcheck was released in 2015.