Did you know that late Michael Jackson’s guitarist was Orianthi Panagaris? Like many other people I saw the “This is It” Michael Jackson movie this week, and of course (as a guitarist) his blonde bombshell shredding guitar god was more than a little noticed by me. The funny thing about it is as you watch the movie you figured MJ picked her as guitar player because of her looks. Then at the point when “Beat It” comes up in the movie and she rips a solo out NOTE FOR NOTE of the Van Halen solo (and then some) – your eyes get big and you’re like “holy shit!”. Her playing throughout the movie was stunning, enough to make me (and half the world) wonder – who the hell was Michael Jackson’s guitar player for the O2 concerts that got featured in the This is It movie?
A few keystrokes later once I got home and I learned a lot (through google) about Orianthi Panagaris. Her name is greek, and she’s from Australia. She’s been playing guitar since she was 6 years old. She’s 24 now, but she’s been playing PRS guitars since she was 11 years old. She was enamored with Sanatana and claims to have worn out all of his video tapes because she played them so many times. As the story goes she dropped out of school at the age of 15 to study and perform guitar. She wrote Santana and sent him some tapes of her playing classical songs. She didn’t hear back – until he toured Australia, and he sent word for her to come to the show and come backstage to meet him. He liked her so much that she ended up performing with him that night on stage in concert. You can see why! Since she has performed with Prince, and Steve Vai, and you might remember seeing her on stage with Carrie Underwoood at the Grammy awards. Carrie asked her to be in the band after that performance, but she declined. Read her complete bio on Wikipedia.
Orianthi talks candidly about her time with Michael Jackson during rehearsals, and how he picked her during auditions on the Australian “Today Show”:
Listen to Oriathi’s spanish Santana influence as she rips a blistering solo:
Here Orianthi rips it up at NAMM in 2006
This is a promo interview video called “Get to Know Orianthi”
Here’s Orianthi in 2007 playing “Song for Steve”
Orianthi tears it up at NAMM on stage in 2007:
Here Orianthi plays at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads guitar festival 2007:
Orianthi’s interviewed about Michael Jackson’s death on CNN:
If you thought that Orianthi was just a shredder – you were wrong! Watch her tear it up on acoustic guitar in this video:
This is a video and song Orianthi recorded for Panasonic:
Here’s Orianthi giving a little guitar lesson on her YouTube video channel:
This is Michael Jackson last concert footage with Orianthi Panagaris on guitar
Here is the first song from her new album “Believe” – According to You:
Here are some pictures of Orinathi as well – enjoy!