Led Zeppelin axeman Jimmy Page has been described as a genius on countless occasions, but you’ll never find him using that term regarding anyone else in his direct profession.
Perhaps, this stance is because playing the guitar comes so easily to Page that he doesn’t believe that anyone should be lauded as a genius. Surprisingly, the axeman considers it an acceptable term to describe musicians who operate in the classical realm, which he implies requires a higher IQ than rock ‘n’ roll.
Page was talking about his favourite guitarists when he decided to make the contentious statement. While he had only superlatives for Jimi Hendrix, he still insisted that the late magician wasn’t a genius. “The only term I won’t accept is ‘genius’. The term ‘genius’ gets used far too loosely in rock ‘n’ roll,” he controversially explained. “When you hear the melodic structures of what classical musicians put together and you compare it to that of a rock and roll record, there’s a hell of a long way rock ‘n’ roll has to go.”
Rock’ n’ roll is fuelled by instinct compared to the methodical classical music, which takes years of training to master, and Page is under the impression that the two are incomparable artforms.
Page continued: “There’s a certain standard in classical music that allows the application of the term ‘genius’, but you’re treading on thin ice if you start applying it to rock ‘n’ rollers.”
Although Page detests using the word genius, there is one artist so richly talented that he felt compelled to fall into the hyperbolic trap to describe his skills. If anyone deserves to be described as a genius, it’s Bob Dylan. “In May 1965 I experienced the genius of Bob at the Albert Hall,” Page wrote on Instagram to celebrate Dylan’s birthday. “He accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and cascaded images and words from such songs as ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ and ‘She Belongs To Me’ to a mesmerised audience. It was life changing.”
He continued: “In 2013, Bob Dylan played at the Albert Hall again – this was the first of three nights – when he would feature songs from his latest album Tempest and some re-arranged earlier material including ‘She Belongs To Me’ and ‘Tangled Up In Blue’. It was intoxicating.”
While Dylan incorporates rock music into his artistry, he’s not your typical rock ‘n’ roller, and it would be reductive to categorise him in that box. Besides, Page’s scarce use of genius also means when he does use it about Dylan, you know he means it with every fibre of his body.