Leslie West, hard-rock guitarist behind ‘Mississippi Queen,’ dies

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Leslie West and his band, Mountain, were pioneers of what would eventually be called heavy metal.

Guitarist Leslie West, credited for the hit “Mississippi Queen” and for inspiring new generations of hard-rock guitarists, has died. He was 75.

“The iconic guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and storyteller has left a legacy that to this day is celebrated by peers and fans across The World,” publicist Steve Karas said on Facebook Wednesday.

Rolling Stone reports West suffered cardiac arrest at his Dayton, Fla., home Monday and never regained consciousness.

Karas said West’s band, Mountain, was one of the first to pioneer what would later become known as heavy metal music. “Mississippi Queen” was Mountain’s best-known song, peaking at No. 27 on the Billboard chart in 1970.


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“West was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and appeared on dozens of other recordings from a vast universe of artists. Samples of his performances lived a secondary life on the masters of a who’s who of hip-hop and rap stars,” Karas wrote.

Karas credited West for helping popularize the Gibson Les Paul Jr guitar model. He also released several signature models for Dean Guitars.

“From 1964 through today, few artists have left a more significant mark on music as we know it. Guitarists across the globe together will unite in sadness as The World says goodbye to a true original,” Karas wrote.

West is survived by his wife, Jenni. Karas said West married her on stage after Mountain performed at Woodstock’s 40th anniversary concert in 2009. He’s also survived by his brother, Larry, and nephew, Max.

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