Uli Jon Roth

Uli Jon Roth Biography

Uli Jon Roth (born Ulrich Roth, 18 December 1954) is a German guitarist, who became famous as Scorpions’ lead guitarist, and is one of the earliest contributors to the neoclassical metal genre. He is also the founder of Sky Academy and inventor of the Sky Guitar. He is the older brother of fellow guitarist and artist Zeno Roth (1956–2018).

In the early 1970s, Roth formed a band called Dawn Road. In 1973, guitarist Michael Schenker left the Scorpions to join UFO. The two remaining Scorpions members, Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine merged with the four members of Dawn Road, (Uli Jon Roth, Achim Kirschning, Francis Buchholz, Jürgen Rosenthal) using the name Scorpions as they were more well known than Dawn Road.

During his tenure as lead guitarist, main songwriter and occasional lead singer for the Scorpions, the band released four studio albums between 1974 and 1977. In 1978, the Scorpions released the live album Tokyo Tapes, which was recorded in Japan and sold nearly one million copies and went gold in several countries. However, Roth had left the band in 1978 following the end of the Taken by Force tour and before the Tokyo Tapes release.

Uli Jon Roth

Roth formed his own band named Electric Sun, which released three albums. The first, Earthquake (1979), was dedicated to the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. A second album released two years later, Fire Wind (1981), was dedicated to Anwar Sadat (the assassinated President of Egypt who had tried to make peace in the Middle East), and featured a song called “Enola Gay (Hiroshima Today?)” about the atomic bombing of Japan by an airplane of that name.

In 1985, Roth released his third and final Electric Sun album, Beyond the Astral Skies, dedicated to Martin Luther King and to Roth’s fans. After Electric Sun, Roth entered a new phase of creative work, composing four symphonies and two concertos, and sometimes performing with symphony orchestras throughout Europe. Roth used the name “Uli Jon Roth” for all subsequent album releases and concert appearances.

In Roth’s early days with Scorpions, his soloing style was based primarily on the blues scale, occasionally incorporating notes from other modes. However, by the time the band recorded the Virgin Killer album, he began incorporating more advanced compositional elements from European classical music, such as pedal tone sequences and intricate arpeggios. Beginning with Electric Sun, the classical influence began to dominate his playing style, notable in songs like “Cast Away Your Chains” and “Still So Many Lives Away”. His style eventually became a fusion of blues-based rock with European classical sensibilities. Roth employs major and minor pentatonic, the blues scale, phrygian, harmonic minor, diminished, and the whole tone scale, notably in his famous “Sails Of Charon” solo.

Roth was romantically involved with artist Monika Dannemann who was with Jimi Hendrix when he died. Roth and Danneman collaborated on various songs including “We’ll Burn the Sky” from the Scorpions’ Taken by Force album in 1977.

Roth has influenced many notable guitar players, including Kirk Hammett, Marty Friedman and Yngwie Malmsteen.

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