Shawn Lane, a virtuoso guitarist and keyboardist known primarily for his contributions to world and jazz-fusion music, died of lung disease on September 26 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. He was 40.
Known for unbelievably accurate guitar work at rapid speeds, Lane’s musical output often defied categorization, as he incorporated a diverse palate of music, ranging from funk, country and classical to heavy metal, psychedelic rock and jazz.
Born March 21, 1963, in Memphis, Tenn., Lane began playing guitar at eight, and he began his professional playing and recording career when he was merely 12. Still a teenager, Lane tagged along with Southern rockers Black Oak Arkansas as the band’s notoriety began to fade, but he still managed to leave jaws dropped everywhere he played with his technical skill.
While his earliest recordings saw Lane working with an eclectic assortment of rock and soul artists like the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, Big Star’s Alex Chilton, Sam & Dave and the Johnny Cash-Willie Nelson country supergroup the Highwaymen, it was his work with renowned Swedish bassist Jonas Hellborg, recording world-fusion music, that led to the guitarist’s greatest acclaim. Hellborg and Lane’s collaborations explored the Carnatic style of South Indian classical music, progressing from a fusion style into a more traditional sound. Participating in sessions with percussionists Kofi Baker, Jeff Sipe and the Indian percussion-playing brothers Vinayakram Selvaganesh and Vinayakram Umashankar, Lane began to make his permanent mark on the musical landscape.
Lane began experiencing health problems in 2001. In September he was preparing for a new album with Hellborg and drummer Ginger Baker, but he began to suffer from severe chest pain. He passed away a few weeks later.
Lane is survived by his daughter, Ashley Marie Root; his mother, Diane Lane; two sisters, Mitzi Lane Purvis and Tina Lane; and his grandmother, Willodyne Martin.