Adrian Belew is one among the many artistes who have played a pivotal role in American music. Though most musicians would stick to a single role of playing just one instrument, or being mere vocalists, Adrian Belew has essayed multiple roles in his career spanning almost four decades. Other than primarily being a guitarist, Belew has also contributed to the field of music as a singer and songwriter. He has even experimented playing various other instruments such as guitar synthesizer, percussion piano, keyboards, bass, cello, double bass, and Koto. Belew started pursuing his musical dream by trying drums and guitar during his teenage years. Adrian always wanted his music to sound quite different from the rest. Instead of merely sticking to the traditional sounds produced by musical instruments, he also incorporated new sounds such as car horns and animal noises into his music, to make the work seem unusual. Belew has collaborated with many bands ever since, notably ‘Talking Heads’, ‘King Crimson’, ‘Nine Inch Nails’, and ‘Porcupine Tree’. He has also worked with popular musicians like ‘David Bowie’ and ‘Laura Anderson’ during this long career.
Childhood & Early Life
Adrian Belew was born on 23 December 1949, in Covington, Kentucky, in a middle class family. His original name was Robert Steven Belew. However, the name Adrian was adopted later since he was really fond of the name.
Adrian joined the marching band of ‘Ludlow High School’ in 1960, as a drummer. Later, he along with his fellow classmates, formed the band ‘Denems’. Heavily inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Adrian also tried the guitar during this period.
Belew migrated to Nashville in the 1970s to pursue music professionally. He even started playing for a band by name ‘Sweetheart’ during this period. It was in this era, that he decided to adopt the name ‘Adrian’..
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Adrian Belew got noticed by legendary American musician Frank Zappa, while he was playing in a bar called ‘Fanny’s’, in 1977. Zappa gave Adrian a chance to audition, and even took the latter along with him on a musical tour. This tour changed Adrian’s career to a large extent, as he got to interact with other professional musicians.
During the same tour, Adrian got to meet David Bowie, another famous American musician. Bowie was bowled over by Adrian’s skills so much that he collaborated with the latter for two of his classics ‘Stage’ and ‘Lodger’.
In the period 1979–1982, Belew happened to meet an upcoming band by name ‘The Talking Heads’, during one of his visits to New York. He soon collaborated with this band after impressing all the band members with his unusual style of playing the guitar. He also happened to meet famous guitarist Robert Fripp at around the same time.
Belew formed a new band known as ‘GaGa’ in 1980. This band soon made waves in New York’s music circles, and was asked to open several musical concerts, including a gig before Robert Fripp’s band ‘The League of Gentlemen’ came to perform on stage.
After many gigs, Belew finally released his solo album called ‘Lone Rhino’ in 1982. The album was known for unusual animal sounds used in the compositions, other than just the ones produced by the musical instruments. The album also featured an instrumental duet between Adrian and his then four- year old daughter Audie.
For a period of 28 years, spanning from 1981 to 2009, Adrian had been a part of the popular band ‘King Crimson’, which was founded by Robert Fripp. Adrian essayed multiple roles during this long tenure, switching from Guitarist to drummer or singer with equal ease..
In 1984, Adrian Belew founded a band by name ‘The Bears’. The band released two albums by name ‘The Bears’ and ‘The Rise and Shine’ before breaking up in 1989.
However, the band rose from the ashes in 1997, and has since been going on small tours. It has also released two albums by names ‘Car Caught Fire’ and ‘Eureka, which released in the years 2001 and 2007, respectively.
In the 1990’s Adrian also ventured into producing music. He first produced two songs of an album composed by the band ‘Jars of Clay’, followed by ‘When Pigs Fly’, an album which belonged to the band ‘The Irresponsibles’.
The highlight of Adrian’s career has been the time he has spent with the band ‘King Crimson’. In 1981, Adrian along with other band members brought out the album ‘Discipline’. The album was widely appreciated for Adrian and Fripp’s contributions with the guitar. The band also went on a tour promoting this album which helped Adrian garner a lot of acclaim.
In 1984, King Crimson released another popular album called ‘Three of A Perfect Pair’. This venture proved out to be success, especially for Adrian’s experiment with a Fretless guitar.
Adrian released his solo album by name ‘Desire Caught by The Tail’, in 1986. This is by far considered to be the most unconventional pieces of music, where only instruments such as percussion, guitar and guitar synthesizer were used. No vocals were used for any of the songs.
From 2004—2006, Adrian Belew released three albums namely ‘Side One’, ‘Side Two’, and ‘Side Three’. The album ‘Side One’ also won Adrian a nomination at the 2005 ‘Grammy’ music awards..
Awards & Achievements
In 2001, Adrian received the ‘Cammy’, a lifetime achievement award of Cincinnati state, for his outstanding contribution to the world of music. Adrian received the award from Peter Frampton, an English rock musician.
2005 turned out to be an eventful year in Adrian’s life. He was nominated for a Grammy in the ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ category that year for the song ‘Beat Box Guitar’, from the album ‘Side One’.
Family & Personal Life
Adrian Belew has been living in Nashville along with his wife. In one of his interviews Adrian said that he has also set up a studio at his home.
Other than just music, Adrian has also been seen in various commercials for the electronic giant ‘Dyken’. The commercials show Adrian conducting a symphony.