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Mick Goodrick 1945 — 2022

The master guitarist was better known as an educator than as a player, leaving behind generations of star pupils

Mick Goodrick
Mick Goodrick

Mick Goodrick, a guitarist and teacher who was arguably the most influential guitar pedagogue in the history of jazz, died November 16 at his home in Boston, Mass. He was 77.

His death was confirmed by the Guitar Department at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, which employed Goodrick off and on for almost 50 years. The cause of death was complications from COVID-19. He had also recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

An accomplished performer in his own right, Goodrick worked with John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette, toured with Gary Burton and Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and briefly worked with the Woody Herman Orchestra. He found his true calling, however, as an educator. He was a faculty member at both Berklee and the New England Conservatory of Music, where his students included John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Mike Stern, Rale Micic, Lage Lund, Wolfgang Muthspiel, and Julian Lage.

He reached scores of other pupils through his 1987 book The Advancing Guitarist, considered an essential read for serious guitar students. According to Berklee Guitar chair Kim Perlak, Goodrick also authored the department’s curriculum. He was particularly known for teaching and researching harmony and chord structures; students affectionally referred to him as “Mr. Goodchord.”

As a musician, Goodrick saw no need to position either performing or teaching as superior to the other. “I think I have achieved a balance,” he told Lyle Robinson in a 2010 interview. “It kind of changes between the proportions of playing and teaching from time to time but I’ve never really been concerned about commercial success. I think that both of them help each other.”

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Goodrick’s friends, peers, and protégés left an outpouring of tributes and memories on social media. “My master teacher, friend, mentor and duo partner Mick Goodrick has left us,” Muthspiel wrote. “But our masters always stay with us.”

“It was almost like we became one instrument when we played together. It was something I had never experienced before with another guitarist. I still haven’t,” wrote Pat Metheny. “Mick was an inspiration to all of us who were so lucky to know him.”

Michael Lewis Christopher Goodrick was born June 9, 1945 in Sharon, Pa., to William P. Goodrick, an accountant, and Dorothy L. Baish Goodrick, a housewife and community activist who also helped out at her husband’s accounting practice. The elder Goodrick played piano as well and passed his love of music down to his son. However, it was Elvis Presley who really captured the boy’s musical imagination. His parents first bought him a ukulele, then a guitar when he was 11 and able to learn an instrument in school.

Goodrick graduated from Sharon High School in 1963. Two years before, he had become besotted with jazz while attending a Stan Kenton band camp, and he matriculated at Berklee; after graduating in 1967, he took a teaching position at the school. He also toured with Woody Herman during the summer of 1970.

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In 1973, Goodrick joined the band led by his Berklee coworker Gary Burton—through whom he met Metheny and bassist Steve Swallow, both of whom would become long-term collaborators. He also worked during the mid-’70s with drummer Jack DeJohnette, who would play on Goodrick’s acclaimed 1978 debut, In Pas(s)ing, for ECM Records.

Goodrick moved to the New England Conservatory in the 1980s, and was there when he wrote The Advancing Guitarist. He returned to Berklee in 1996, remaining there for the next 24 years. His other books included Factorial Rhythm for All Instruments, Creative Chordal Harmony for the Guitar (with Tim Miller), and the multivolume series Mr. Goodchord’s Almanac of Guitar Voice-Leading.

Beginning in the 1980s, he worked with Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, as well as with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, and continued working with DeJohnette in his Special Edition band. He increased his own recorded output in the ’90s, with 1990’s Biorhythms, 1993’s Rare Birds and Sunscreams, and 1995’s In the Same Breath (with Dave Liebman and Muthspiel). A former student, Muthspiel also became one of his go-to collaborators, often working with him in duet format.

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Retiring from his teaching duties in 2020, Goodrick was planning a foundation that would fund musical and educational initiatives. However, a fall in September 2022 resulted in a broken hip; while recovering from the injury, he contracted COVID. A GoFundMe page was set up in his name just days before his death.

He is survived by a brother, Dr. Ted Goodrick of Riverside, California.

Mick Goodrick: Six-String Theorist

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.