Paul McCartney

1942 (Liverpool) –

McCartney’s songwriting and performing partnership with Lennon, despite its fractiousness, was one of the most notable in popular music (his relationship with Ono was also terse). Pinter invited him to parties, Dylan introduced him to cannabis. Wilson and McCartney were friends across decades, if never close, and competitive mutual influences. De Kooning, befriended through his wife’s father, inspired him to paint. He performed on stage with his friend Ginsberg, got another friend, Hamilton, to design a famous cover, and played a studio session with Wonder. Lynch interviewed him about transcendental meditation. Unfortunately available biographies tend to lack objectivity.

Paul McCartney knew…

Ornette Coleman

1930 (Fort Worth, Tex.) – 2015 (New York)

Coleman’s restlessly innovative approach to structure and harmonics, and penchant for unorthodox performance situations, has strongly influenced younger musicians in and beyond the field of jazz. Cherry, Higgins and Haden (a lifelong friend — Coleman saw collaboration and friendship as practically the same) joined him as early and key partners. Lewis, Bley, Bernstein and Thomson all supported his career. Dolphy, Hubbard, Redman, Jones, McLean and Sanders were among musicians who played with him; Ono, Smith, Reed and Burroughs were accomplices further afield. Ayler was a good friend, while Roach (Coleman said) punched him in the mouth.

Ornette Coleman knew…

Olivier Messiaën

Olivier Messaien

1908 (Avignon, France) – 1992 (Clichy-la-Garenne)

One of the great 20th C composers, Messiaën’s unusually individualistic music has been widely influential. He studied with Dukas and Widor: his own body of students included Boulez (characteristically condescending), Stockhausen, Goeyvaerts, Barraqué, Henry, Grisey and Kurtág, while Xenakis sat in on his classes. Boulanger disapproved of his teaching methods, Delaunay lent him a painting by her husband, Jolivet was influential as a fellow-member of la Jeune France, and Bernstein conducted an important première. Messiaën wrote to Poulenc thanking him for defending him, and visited Durey during the Occupation. Milhaud described the Messiaëns as “charming and impossible.”

Olivier Messiaën knew…

Laurie Anderson

1947 (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) –

Anderson’s quirky wry multimedia works make her a notable, if unclassifiable, cultural presence. Andre, LeWitt and Danto all taught her. Glass, Brown and Matta-Clark (whom she found entrancing) were part of the same loose New York gang of artists, dancers and musicians. She performed with Burroughs and Giorno, wrote music for Gray, interviewed Cage and was struck by Acconci’s emotional intensity. Paik, Sakamoto and Eno count among her collaborators (many equally friends). She first met Wenders by chance in an airport, and Abramovic naked in a doorway. Pynchon, reclusive, permitted an opera based on ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, but stipulated banjo alone.

Laurie Anderson knew…

Keith Richards

1943 (Dartford, England) –

Richards and Jagger first met at primary school. When Lennon and McCartney gave them a song (the Rolling Stones’ first single), they played it through together and started a friendly give-and-take relationship. The Stones’ first tour was headlined by the Everlys, Diddley and Little Richard (Richards liked the latter especially). Dixon, Waters, Wolf and Berry — all heroes — were met on their first visit to Chicago, Waters helping carry their amps. Richards much later organised Berry’s 60th birthday party, and played in his backing band. He played (among others) with Dylan, Waits, Hooker, Franklin, Shorter, Lewis and Nelson.

Keith Richards knew…

Jimi Hendrix

Jimmy Hendrix;Jimi Hendricks

1942 (Seattle) – 1970 (London)

Hendrix, one of rock music’s most influential exponents, broke new ground in electric guitar playing. He learned his craft backing Cooke, Wilson, Curtis, Little Richard, and Ike and Tina Turner among other soul/rhythm and blues stars, and gigged with King. Among British admirers he telegrammed McCartney to fly out and play bass with himself and Davis (it didn’t happen), joined the Rolling Stones backstage on his birthday, and won a toss with Townshend to decide who would play last. He gave his friend Zappa a guitar he’d set alight, and told Smith (found sitting on his studio steps) he was also kind of shy.

Jimi Hendrix knew…

Jan Ladislav Dussek

1760 (Čáslav, Bohemia, now Czech Republic) – 1812 (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France)

Dussek has been described as an unjustly neglected composer, whose works anticipated later romantics (including Beethoven). As a young man, he met C. P. E. Bach (perhaps taking lessons from him). Haydn wrote from London to Dussek’s father, praising his son; he later lent Haydn his piano. Da Ponte rented Dussek and his father-in-law’s shop to store his 12,000 books, but found himself saddled with their debts. Dussek also met Cramer and Clementi in London, and gave some lessons to Onslow. Spohr (a friend originally met in Hamburg) and Goethe joined in Dussek and his Prussian patron’s spirited festivities.

Elvin Jones

1927 (Pontiac, Mich.) – 2004 (Englewood, N.J.)

One of the greatest jazz drummers, Jones was influential for his innovative polyrhythmic approach and many collaborations. In early days in Detroit, he played with visiting stars including Davis (who stayed with him), Parker and Stitt. An audition with his hero Goodman was disastrous. He played in Johnson’s band and briefly with Ellington (Williams giving him a hard time), was courted by Gillespie but turned the offer down, and though initially unavailable when the call came from Coltrane, spent five luminous years with him (saying that other than his brothers Hank and Thad, he was the best teacher he’d had).

Elvin Jones knew…

David Byrne

1952 (Dumbarton, Scotland) –

Byrne led the influential band Talking Heads, and has maintained a profile as a creative innovator with a range of explorative collaborations and other projects. Demme worked closely with him on a noted music film. Established collaborators include Eno, Sakamoto, Glass, Wilson and Veloso. He composed music for films of Wenders (who initially met him in Berlin, with Wilson), Frears and Bertolucci. He worked with Tharp, performed with Simon, found Anderson a kindred spirit, and had a relationship with Sherman. Reed advised him never to wear short-sleeve shirts on stage, given the hairiness of his arms.

David Byrne knew…

Bill Laswell

1955 (Salem, Ill.) –

Laswell’s significance is primarily as someone who makes things happen, a tirelessly energetic genre-crossing experimentalist. Individuals he has played with, produced or promoted (often all three) range from Anderson to Zorn, by way of Burroughs, Byrne, Brötzmann, Eno (who taught him about production), Hancock, Lydon, Kuti, Sanders, Shorter, Perry, Jagger and Ono — and a whole lot more, including noted hip-hop DJ’s and leading musicians from the US, Europe, Africa and Jamaica. Many of these became lasting friends. Bowles, exceptionally if understandably, asked Laswell to undo what he had done, but too late.

Bill Laswell knew…