Renowned solo guitarist Michael Hedges, known best for his unique style of playing with two hands simultaneously on a double-neck acoustic/bass guitar, died when his car apparently ran off a California highway this past weekend. He was 43.
Hedges' body was found at the bottom of an embankment at around 11:20 a.m., Tuesday, by several road-maintenance workers off of Route 128 near the town of Boonville outside Mendocino, Calif.
Hedges apparently was driving in wet conditions when his car ran off the road, according to Lt. Kevin Broin of the Mendocino County Sheriff's coroner's office. He died from internal injuries after being thrown from his 1986 BMW, he added.
It was not known exactly when the accident took place or what caused the car to veer off the highway. A toxicology report will be generated in accordance with California state law, but the results won't be known for several weeks, Broin said, adding that it was unclear if Hedges was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash.
A native of Sacramento, Calif., Hedges released his first record, Breakfast in the Field (Windham Hill) in 1981. Subsequent releases included two Grammy-nominated albums, 1984's Aerial Boundaries and 1990'sTaproot. Known for his two-handed, tapping-style of soloing and his use of a specially made, double-necked acoustic/bass guitar, Hedges' most-inspired performances included versions of Bob Dylan's hits "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower."
Hedges was scheduled to start a new tour, beginning on Feb. 26 in Vermont. Jenin Ardolino, Windham Hill's senior manager of publicity, described Hedges as "an amazing person and artist, whose inventive playing inspired many music-lovers to play guitar."
Uncomfortable with being labeled a "new age" musician because of his association with the new age label Windham Hill, Hedges often described his sound -- which used harmonics and picking to create the impression of multiple guitars being played at once -- as "acoustic thrash" or "new edge."
Hedges' final recording, an acoustic composition titled "Java Man," is set to appear on an upcoming compilation titled The Sounds of Wood and Steel, which is due out on Jan. 27.
He is survived by his mother, Ruth Ipsen of Fresno, Calif.; a sister, Carol Hedges, of San Francisco; two brothers, Craig Hedges of Los Angeles and Brendan Hedges of Madera, Calif.; and two sons, Misca, 11, and Jasper, 13, of Mendocino, Calif. -- Byron Gordon [Thurs., Dec. 4, 1997, 5 p.m. PST]