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Guitarist Harvey Mandel Battles Cancer

Harvey Mandel
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Pioneering guitarist Harvey Mandel has been diagnosed with a rare form of invasive cancer, and the extensive surgeries needed to save his life have left him with extensive medical bills.

Mandel’s health woes started in 2011, when he noticed unusual swelling following a broken nose. Initially believing that the swelling was a consequence of the break, and distracted by personal issues, he put off an in-depth exam until mid-2013, when doctors discovered he was dealing with cancer inside his nose.

A series of surgeries followed — five in all — and although he’s currently believed to be cancer-free, Mandel now faces additional operations to reconstruct his nose, as well as the difficult task of paying for his care. To that end, the Help Harvey Mandel website has been established, featuring information about Mandel’s current prognosis as well as links for donations and more.

While he’s never enjoyed household-name status, Mandel is an undeniably important figure in guitar circles, going back to his tenure with Charlie Musselwhite’s band, first captured on the 1966 LP ‘Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite’s Southside Band.’ As innovative as he was restless, Mandel displayed his singular technique (which helped popularize two-handed fretboard tapping) during stints with Canned Heat and John Mayall, as well as the Rolling Stones, with whom he auditioned to replace Mick Taylor following Taylor’s 1974 departure from the band. He’s also maintained a prolific solo career, starting with 1968′s ‘Cristo Redentor’ and continuing through 2009′s ‘Harvey Mandel and the Snake Crew (Live).’

Mandel discussed his approach to the instrument during a 1972 interview with Zoo World, “There’s a difference between being a good musician and playing a good song. . . . It takes years before you’re at the point where there’s nothing physical left for you to learn, where it’s all purely in the mind. There’s still always the physical side. Usually that’s the technique and that’s the fine point between many of us. I think the thing that helps me is that I have an original style. I don’t try to copy the general trend. . . . I don’t consider myself a blues guitarist or a this or that. I’m a guitar player. In other words, I don’t just play guitar, I play music, which means I try to play everything.”

Mandel’s friends and family are hoping to raise $50,000 to cover the costs of his treatment. To see how you can help, visit the Help Harvey Mandel website.

Next: Neal Schon Interview

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