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Rock Icons: Ritchie Blackmore by Opeth's Fredrik Åkesson

Opeth guitarist Fredrik Åkesson salutes the Rainbow and Deep Purple legend

Around the time I bought my first hard rock album, my friend played me Stargazer from the Rising album by Rainbow. It was so heavy. What an epic track.

Ritchie Blackmore seemed like such a moody player as well, and he had this great mystery around him. My favourite Blackmore era is definitely the albums that he did with Ronnie James Dio; I like the majestic songs that they wrote together. He’s obviously a guitar virtuoso, but he’s also a fantastic songwriter as well.

I went to see him play live with Blackmore’s Night and I was very impressed with his acoustic playing too. I had no idea he was that good unplugged. I went to see him later on with Deep Purple and he didn’t come out for the encore with the rest of the band to play Smoke On The Water, so they played it without him. But that’s kind of his image; he likes to do stuff his way. I have total respect for that. It’s his way or the highway, basically. If he has his mind set on something then that’s the way it’s going to be. That must be frustrating for the people that work with him, but I think it’s cool that he doesn’t bow for anyone.

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In the early days, I suppose he was more of a blues player. He had this great tone, and a great blues feel and timing and everything like that. Then later on he progressed with Deep Purple and he tried more symphonic stuff with more of a classical influence. He built on that with Rainbow as well, which had lots of epic solos and strong melodies in the songs. But he’s always been a great blues player, and I think that’s the best foundation you can have as a guitar player.

As a songwriter, he always developed as well. He was a big fan of ABBA apparently, which you can definitely tell in the Joe Lynn Turner-era of Rainbow. During that time he wrote a lot majestic pop songs with great melodies, but with a hard rock type of feel, and he covered a huge spectrum over his career; from the very start with Purple up to the stuff he does now with Blackmore’s Night, which is Renaissance-influenced music. He’s a true artist and he’s clearly in it for the music, not for the fame or the fortune or the girls. That’s what makes him a rock icon, to me.


Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow tour the UK in June 2017. Opeth's album Sorceress is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Fredrik was speaking to Matt Stocks.

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