When talking about the best guitarist of all time, you will come across names like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix. It has always been a topic of debate and one name everyone misses mostly is Mike Bloomfield. Even Clapton and Dylan revered him, but his life was too short to create a very big legacy.
Mike is often considered the guitarist who was in the shadows and failed to create an international sensation. While most people don’t know about him, he was well-known for his guitar skills among the elites. He is also regarded as your ‘favorite guitarist’s favorite guitarist’.
Michael Bernard Bloomfield, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1943, was a master who invested his time playing guitar in the 60s. In mid-1965 during the sessions for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, there was a dinner with studio musicians. That’s when Guitarist Michael Bloomfield played in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and everyone was surprised to see his potential. He also went head-on with many other blues and jazz bands before breaking out.
In the early 60s, he was already a big part of Chicago’s blues scene. He was great on piano, and acoustic as well as electric guitar. Michael was an artist who popularised the sound of the blues back then. He even made way for other blues artists who later on thrived. However, Bloomfield was always in the background and never got the limelight. Mike would not sing until 1969.
Before that, he helped establish some of the greatest songs of all time.
As mentioned earlier, in 1965, he worked and played on Bob’s sixth studio album ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. He was very much loved and that’s the reason he played alongside Dylan in the Newport Folk Festival show. Nick Gravenites who played alongside Michael in the band Electric Flag mentioned that he was an important part of the band. He said,
“People that knew Michael, they loved him, It had nothing to do with liking the guy, they loved him. Even to this day 30 years after his death, people that knew him and loved him knew he was the best. He was absolutely the best guitar player of his generation. Dylan thought he was. Hendrix thought he was. Clapton thought he was.” He also added,
“He wanted people to sit there and love the music and get involved in it and not get all hero worshipped. He didn’t like that part of the music scene. Thought it was ridiculous. Never catered to it at all. God, he turned down Dylan! Turned down Dylan! I mean, this is the kind of guy he was.”
Back in 2009, Dylan also remembered Bloomfield during an interview with Rolling Stone. He said he is “the guy that I always miss. . . . He had so much soul. And he knew all the styles.” Sadly, Mike’s desire to not be in the biggest group is the reason he is not really known around the world. While things could have ended in a different way, we believe he simply wanted to be true to his own type of craft.
Even Barry Goldberg had things to say about him. He commented, “His bombastic playing, those notes that just went into the air, when he shook that string it just went right through you. the intensity in his playing was like no one I’ve ever played with, including Jimi Hendrix.”
Bloomfield worked with low-profile bands and small record labels. At the same time, Michael was also struggling with chronic insomnia and heroin. Three months after being with Dylan on stage, Bloomfield was found dead in his car because of an overdose. He was only 37.
Dylan also wondered about many things in the 2009 interview and said
“I think he’d still be around if he stayed with me.”