Jimi Hendrix is said to have been once asked what it felt like to be the world’s greatest guitar-player. The story goes that he replied, ‘I don’t know. Go ask Rory Gallagher.’
Born in Ballyshannon Co. Donegal, Rory was a true phenomenon. Quiet and shy offstage, he seemed possessed of an amazing energy and creative genius when he strapped on his battered Fender Stratocaster (reputedly the first one in Ireland) and took to the stage.
Playing with total passion yet also great sensitivity, Rory found melody lines no one else had imagined, always searching at the edges for new sounds with which to thrill his audience. We used to say he could ‘really make the guitar talk’. In his hands it giggled and sang, wailed, howled, moaned and whispered. While none of us will ever match his genius, Rory was the man who encouraged many of us to first pick up the guitar.
During the Troubles he was one of the few artists to remain faithful to his Belfast fans. Among the many videos of him playing live on Youtube is the 1984 gig in the Ulster Hall. (My brother and I are somewhere near the front of that crowd!)
While Rory died tragically young in 1995, many of us cherish fond memories of him as one of the first real ‘guitar heroes’ to have inspired us.
The electric guitar is a beautiful and potentially powerful instrument. Occasionally in church I’ll use it as an illustration, because for it to really ‘sing’ it needs to be in the hands of a master musician like Rory, and plugged into some serious power.
And on the big scale of life that principle holds true. For human beings are the crown of God’s creation, made in His image to bring Him glory. But our lives will only harmonise with the sweet music of His universe when we willingly place ourselves at the disposal of the Master, Jesus, and allow the power of His Holy Spirit to flow in us.
Rory had it as a song title, but Jesus makes it a crucial life choice, issuing it as an inviting command –