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Jonny Greenwood

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Best known as Radiohead's innovative jack of all trades -- a multi-instrumentalist equally comfortable playing guitar, xylophone, sampler, or keyboards -- Jonny Greenwood also pursued a solo career as a composer while helping his band push the boundaries of its music into unusual and decidedly non-rock directions. Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood was born on November 5, 1971, in Oxford, England. Along with his brother Colin, Greenwood attended Abingdon School near Oxford; it was here that the older Colin first came into contact with schoolmate Thom Yorke. Before long, the two were playing music together in a project dubbed TNT. Guitarist Ed O'Brien and drummer Phil Selway were soon admitted into the fold, and the new band adopted the moniker On a Friday (in reference to the day of the week they would routinely get together and practice). Jonny Greenwood, who was a couple of years younger than the other four, repeatedly asked to play with the group; he was finally invited to play harmonica with On a Friday at a 1987 gig at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. This proved to be his initiation into the band; he later took over keyboard duties for the group before finally switching into the role of lead guitarist. However, On a Friday were placed on an extended hiatus when the four older members went off to college in the fall of 1987. A couple of years later, Greenwood himself went on to study music at Oxford. By the summer of 1991, though, his bandmates had graduated from college and reunited the group, prompting him to leave school (after only a year) so that he could commit to On a Friday on a full-time basis. The re-formed quintet quickly got to work, recording and releasing a series of demo tapes and gigging steadily in the area. It wasn't long before the major labels came knocking, and On a Friday soon had a record deal with EMI. Their new label quickly pointed out (not unjustly) that the band's name was somewhat unwieldy; the band concurred, and Radiohead was selected as the new name, taken from the title of a Talking Heads song. In late 1992, Radiohead exploded in America with their single "Creep"; featuring Greenwood's jarringly percussive, muted guitar bursts (which strangely provided the song's hook), "Creep" was widely embraced by MTV and alternative radio, who put the song into heavy rotation. Although follow-up singles from their album Pablo Honey were released, Radiohead could not escape the one-hit wonder stigma until the release of The Bends in 1995. An amazing artistic leap over their first album, The Bends contained plenty of Jonny Greenwood guitar pyrotechnics ("Just," "My Iron Lung"), but also revealed an assured, mature side of the group that was previously unknown ("Street Spirit," "Fake Plastic Trees"). Around this time, Greenwood's physically aggressive style of playing guitar began to take a toll on his right wrist. To relieve the pain and deter the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, he was fitted with a wrist brace to provide support to the joint. The brace soon became a trademark of sorts for Greenwood, and he continued to wear it out of routine long after the immediate threat of injury was gone. After The Bends, Greenwood began to show signs that he was growing uninspired with using the guitar as his primary means of expression. Said the guitarist, "There's only 12 power chords, and I think we've had about 20 years of them, so maybe it's time to move on." Greenwood took this sentiment so far as to (half-jokingly) issue a prompt to online Radiohead fans, asking them to send him any interesting chord progressions that they could devise. Nevertheless, when Radiohead released the massively successful OK Computer in 1997, the guitar work was taken to new heights. Beginning immediately with the opening atonal "Airbag" riff, Greenwood redefined what a guitar could sound like, whether it was the distant, chiming gull cries of "Subterranean Homesick Alien" (which succeeds admirably in its attempt to re-create Miles Davis' Bitches Brew trumpet tone) or the digital meltdown near the end of "Paranoid Android." On the ensuing North American tour, however, Greenwood's dissatisfaction with playing strictly guitar-oriented music reached its zenith -- a feeling that was carried over into the recording studio following the tour's completion. The release of Kid A in 2000 and its counterpart, Amnesiac, the following year clearly reflected this; Radiohead's trademark guitars had vanished from all but a handful of their songs, replaced instead with layers of synthesizers, keyboards, and samplers. And although Radiohead's 2003 release, Hail to the Thief, featured more guitars than either of the group's previous two albums, Jonny Greenwood's debut solo album, Bodysong (released later that year), was a mostly guitarless affair, proving once again that Greenwood need not be shackled to the confines of the electric guitar to compose original, evocative music. He was hired by the BBC as composer in residence the following year, resulting in the publication of a handful of pieces, including "smear," "Piano for Children," and "Popcorn Superhet Receiver." Jonny Greenwood Is the Controller, a compilation of reggae and dub tracks from the vaults of Trojan Records, was released in 2007, as well as his critically acclaimed soundtrack for director Paul Thomas Anderson's Academy Award-winning oil tycoon drama There Will Be Blood, which featured excerpts of "Popcorn Superhet Receiver"; because it included preexisting music, it was deemed ineligible for an Academy Award nomination. His work in film continued in 2010 with the soundtrack for Tran Anh Hung's big-screen adaptation of Japanese author Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. The following year, his score for We Need to Talk About Kevin, a film adaptation of Lionel Shriver's novel, arrived; in 2012, he reunited with Anderson for the score to The Master. That year, Greenwood also worked with one of his biggest inspirations, Krzysztof Penderecki; their collaboration, which included Greenwood's homage to the composer "48 Responses to Polymorphia," arrived that March. The Australian Chamber Orchestra commissioned Greenwood to compose the piece Water, which premiered in 2014, during a three-month residency in Sydney. Late that year, his score to Anderson's adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice arrived. In 2015, Greenwood traveled to the Mehrangarh Fort in the state of Rajasthan, India and collaborated with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, Indian ensemble the Rajasthan Express, and producer Nigel Godrich. The recording session was documented by Anderson and released as a film titled Junun, and an album of the same name was released by Nonesuch in November. ~ Steve Bekkala
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Stations Featuring
Jonny Greenwood

    Movie Scores

    Movie Scores
    6 songs

Albums by
Jonny Greenwood

Top Songs by
Jonny Greenwood

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   The Master~Back Beyond
  3.   The Master~Sweetness of Freddie
  4.   The Master~His Master's Voice
  5.   The Master~Alethia
  6.   The Master~Baton Sparks
  7.   The Master~The Split Saber
  8.   Moon Thrills
  9.   Prospectors Arrive
  10.   Trench
  11.   Future Markets
  12.   Milky Drops from Heaven
  13.   The Chryskylodon Institute
  14.   Shasta
  15.   Iron Swallow
  16.   Ate Mo Naku Aruki Mawatta
  17.   Proven Lands
  18.   Journey Through The Past by Neil Young
  19.   Meeting Crocker Fenway
  20.   Henry Plainview
  21.   The Master~Overtones
  22.   The Master~Application 45 Version I
  23.   The Golden Fang featuring Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  24.   Convergence
  25.   Moon Trills
  26.   Roked by Shye Ben Tzur
  27.   Any Day Now
  28.   Shasta Fay Hepworth
  29.   Simba by Les Baxter
  30.   Adrian Prussia
  31.   Les Fleur by Minnie Riperton
  32.   Shasta Fay
  33.   Here Comes The Ho-Dads by The Marketts
  34.   Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me) (as used in the film The Master)
  35.   Nudnick Headache
  36.   Watashi Wo Toru Toki Wa Watashi Dake Wo Totte Ne
  37.   Toki No Senrei Wo Uketeinai Mono Wo Yomuna
  38.   Quartertone Bloom
  39.   Naoko Ga Shinda
  40.   Mou Sukoshi Jibun No Koto, Kichinto Shitaino
  41.   Liko Dakara Damattete
  42.   Hageshii Genchou
  43.   HW/Hope of New Fields
  44.   There Will Be Blood
  45.   Eat Him By His Own Light
  46.   Dreader Locks
  47.   Tehellet
  48.   Nudnik Headache
  49.   Prospector's Quartet
  50.   Reiko
  51.   Spooks
  52.   Peartree
  53.   Oil
  54.   Get Thee Behind Me Satan (as used in the film The Master)
  55.   Changing Partners (as used in the film The Master)
  56.   Clockwork Tin Soldiers
  57.   Moon Mall
  58.   Stranded the Line
  59.   Splitter
  60.   Vitamin C by Can
  61.   Amethyst
  62.   Bode Radio/Glass Light/Broken Hearts
  63.   Open Spaces
  64.   Sukiyaki
  65.   Time Hole
  66.   24 Hour Charleston
  67.   Flash Gordon Meets Luke Skywalker featuring Jammy
  68.   Under The Paving Stones, The Beach!
  69.   No Other Love (as used in the film The Master)
  70.   The Master~Able-Bodied Seamen
  71.   Atomic Healer
  72.   Sougen, Kaze, Zoukibayashi
  73.   Mata Aini Kuru Kara Ne

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