Why Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page Refused The Term ‘Genius’

Jimmy Page is one of the names on everyone’s list of the greatest rock guitarists of all time with his distinctive approach to the instrument. He never settled for anything less from the very beginning of his career. His endless innovative and experimental style made him stand out among his peers. Page’s versatile guitar playing, mind-blowing solos, and perfectionism considerably helped Led Zeppelin to become of the most successful rock acts of the late ’60s and ’70s.

His blues-based playing and layered guitar parts are instantly recognizable since he brings such a unique character to his approach. The guitarist is credited for many original techniques shaping modern guitar playing. Undoubtedly, many would call Jimmy Page a true guitar hero or even a genius due to his tremendous influence on guitar playing. Yet, the guitarist rejected using the term ‘genius’ as an acceptable compliment.

Why Does Jimmy Page Think ‘Genius’ Isn’t A Proper Word For Him?

During an old interview with Rolling Stone in 1975, Jimmy Page talked about his favorite guitarists when he made a statement about being called a genius. After giving the names of Jimi Hendrix, Clarence White, Amos Garrett, and Elliott Randall, the guitarist said he would never call either these names or himself a genius since he hesitates to use it loosely.

Page considers it an acceptable term, not for the rock and roll stars but for the musicians who operate in classical music. He implied that being a genius in guitar playing requires much more than playing rock and roll songs. Jimmy Page thinks rock and roll and classical music are incomparable fields regarding mastery over the instrument.

The guitarist perceives rock and roll as street music rather than the technical classical music that takes years of training to master. Although he refuses to use the term genius, he still thinks many outstanding guitar players are in the rock scene. No school for rock and roll teaches how to sound in a certain way, which he finds fascinating, in line with his experimental approach to guitar.

Jimmy Page’s thoughts on being called a genius follow:

The only term I won’t accept is ‘genius.‘ The term ‘genius’ gets used far too loosely in rock & roll. When you hear the melodic structures of what classical musicians put together and compare it to that of a rock & roll record, there’s a hell of a long way rock & roll has to go. 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 & rollers.

The way I see it, rock & roll is folk music, street music. It isn’t taught in school. It has to be picked up. You don’t find geniuses in street musicians, but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t be really good. You get as much out of rock & roll artistically as you put into it. There’s nobody who can teach you. You’re on your own, and that’s what I find so fascinating about it.”

Considering his statements, it looks like the Led Zeppelin icon enjoys the space of freedom rock and roll provides him. Thus, he can introduce new ways to bring his guitar playing an exceptional character without depending on particular forms.