Rock’n’roll is just a little quieter today, following the passing of Jim Marshall, who helped the genre turn it up to 10. Marshall, 88, founded the iconic guitar amp brand Marshall Amplification in 1962.
According to Marshall’s family, the rock pioneer died in a hospice in his native England on Thursday (April 5). “He got cancer toward the end of last year, and had surgery for that, and it came back,” his son Terry Marshall said. “He was in a terrible state the last five or six weeks.” Marshall was born James Charles Marshall on July 29, 1923 in Acton, West London.
Marshall’s passing was mourned on his official website, with a lengthy ode from the Marshall Amplification team:
“Jim’s ascent into the history books as ‘the Father of Loud’ and the man responsible for ‘the Sound of Rock’ is a true rags-to-riches tale. Cruelly robbed of his youth by tubercular bones, Jim rose to become one of the four forefathers responsible for creating the tools that allowed rock guitar as we know and love it today to be born. The ground breaking quartet also includes the late, great trio of Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover [who created the electric guitar pickup known as the ‘humbucker’] – together with Jim, they truly are the cornerstones of all things rock.”
Marshall Amps were initially popularized by ’60s and ’70s guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, The Who’s Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Not only did the raw, fuzzy power of Marshall Amps become associated with rock’n’roll and later, heavy metal, but the aesthetics of the oversized amps piled up — dubbed the “Marshall stack” — made for a bold onstage statement.
Marshall actually began his career as a drummer and drum teacher, opening a London music shop in 1960. Despite a lack of technical experience, he was motivated by the notion that he could produce cheaper alternatives to the American-made, English-imported guitar amplifiers used by U.K. musicians.
The official statement on Marshall’s site also brings light to his charitable side, for which Marshall was awarded the prestigious Order of British Empire (OBE) title. “In addition to the creation of the amps chosen by countless guitar heroes and game changing bands,” the statement continues, “Jim was also an incredibly humble and generous man who, over the past several decades, has quietly donated many millions of pounds to worthy causes.”