Les Paul–Guitar Hero

By Lloyd Graff

Les Paul, the famed guitarist, died last Thursday at 94. He played his instrument in a jazz club until just before his death even though he had the use of only two fingers in his left hand because of arthritis. Paul’s right arm had been badly crushed in a car accident in 1948. One doctor suggested amputation, but Paul insisted that they fix it at a right angle so he could play his guitar.

He developed the first solid-body, electric guitar for Gibson. The company did not see a future for the instrument until 1952, after rival company, Fender, introduced its hugely popular Fender Telecaster electric guitar to the music market

Paul’s story is an intriguing one for me. It resonates with another tidbit I heard recently.

Crusty old Arlen Specter, 78-years-old, who had five terms in the Senate as a Republican from Pennsylvania, flipped to the Democrats in May of this year. One reason he did so was to keep more clout on appropriations for the National Institute of Health, which funds a huge part of the medical research in the United States. Almost single-handedly, Specter forced $10 billion into the Obama stimulus package for the NIH.

The person who told me about Specter is closely involved with medical research and said that this infusion of money is already making a big difference.

Specter is currently taking chemotherapy for his second bout of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an often lethal type of cancer.

Les Paul and Arlen Specter chose totally different life paths, but both have demonstrated that you can make a difference by doing what you love, and never giving up, despite any supposed disability.

Making a Gibson Guitar

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