100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks

From Jerry Garcia and Joan Jett to B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone critic chooses the best and most influential guitarists in rock

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Brian May

39. Brian May

When the lead singer of your band is Freddie Mercury, you're lucky if anybody notices your guitar playing at all. But Brian May was every bit as flamboyant as his frontman in terms of getting attention, and he defined the sound of Queen with his upper-register guitar shrieks. May juiced the treble all the way for a clear and piercing tone, playing solos with grandeur and campy feather-boa humor. From "Killer Queen" to "Bohemian Rhapsody," May offered counterpoint to Mercury's operatic falsetto, pushing glitter rock over the top until the sound was sheer heart attack. He will, he will rock you.

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