The music world has lost a legendary guitarist as Leslie West has died at the age of 75. West is best known for his work as the guitarist and co-lead vocalist for the '70s hard rock outfit Mountain.
Dean Guitars, who had long endorsed West, revealed the singer's death in a social media post. "With a heavy heart, we are saddened hear about the passing of #Dean Artist and part of the Dean family, Leslie West. Legendary and one of a kind. Rest In Peace," commented the guitar company.
The news was then confirmed by Twisted Sister's Dee Snider.
News of West's ailing health circulated earlier this week as his brother, Larry West Weinstein, commented on social media on Monday. Weinstein stated that his brother was gravely ill and near death after his heart stopped, and that he had been put on a ventilator.
West was born Leslie Weinstein in New York City on Oct. 22, 1945 and grew up in the New York and New Jersey area. He started his music career with the soul group The Vagrants, scoring some success with the singles "I Can't Make a Friend" and a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect."
The guitarist formed a bond while in the Vagrants working with producer Felix Pappalardi and the pair eventually branched off to form Mountain in 1969. Mountain had their biggest hit, "Mississippi Queen," in 1970. West's distinctive guitar riffs really struck a chord with listeners. The song peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, but remained a staple at classic rock radio stations for years to come.
Mountain, "Mississippi Queen"
After Pappalardi's exit the group briefly split before West reformed Mountain in 1973. In the years since, the band has split and reformed multiple times.
West was inducted in to the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and appeared on dozens of other recordings from a vast universe of artists. Samples of his performances lived a secondary life on the masters of a who’s who of hip-hop and rap stars.
The guitarist has remained a presence in rock music, co-writing the Clutch song "Immortal" and teaming up with Ozzy Osbourne on the Prince of Darkness' 2005 cover of "Mississippi Queen." He's also pursued solo material, with his Soundcheck album hitting No. 2 on the US Top Blues Albums chart in 2015. Over the years, many a rock guitarist from Eddie Van Halen to Randy Rhoads and Ritchie Blackmore had expressed their admiration for West's playing.
The guitarist is renowned for helping popularize the Gibson Les Paul Jr. model with P-90 pick-ups to create a tone that is undisputedly his own. More recently, he enjoyed a long relationship with Dean Guitars, releasing several signature models.
West suffered some health setbacks over the last decade. In 2011, he had his lower right leg amputated while dealing with complications from diabetes. Leslie West is survived by his wife Jenni, whom he married on stage after Mountain’s performance at the Woodstock 40th Anniversary concert in Bethel, NY on Aug. 15, 2009. He is also survived by his brother Larry and nephew Max.