Colin Charles Greenwood (born 26 June 1969) is an English musician and the bassist for the alternative rock band Radiohead. Along with his younger brother, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Greenwood attended Abingdon School in Oxford, England, where he met the future band members. Radiohead have since achieved critical acclaim and have sold over 30 million albums. Along with bass guitar, Greenwood plays upright bass and electronic instruments.
Colin Greenwood, Bonnaroo, 17 June 2006
|Birth name||Colin Charles Greenwood|
|Born||26 June 1969|
|Genres||Alternative rock, art rock, electronic, film score|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, bassist, composer|
|Associated acts||Radiohead, Tamino|
Greenwood, whose father served in the British army, lived in Germany as a child for enough time to become fluent in German. He is the older brother of Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The family historically had ties to the British Communist Party and the Fabian Society. Greenwood credited his older sister, Susan, with influencing his and his brother Jonny's taste in music as an adolescent: "She’s responsible for our precocious love of miserable music. The Fall, Magazine, Joy Division. We were ostracised at school because everyone else was into Iron Maiden."
When Greenwood was 12, he met future Radiohead singer Thom Yorke at Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Oxford. Their future bandmates Ed O'Brien, whom Greenwood met during a school production of the opera Trial by Jury, and Philip Selway also attended the school.
Greenwood bought his first guitar when he was 15. He studied classical guitar under the Abingdon music teacher Terence Gilmore-James, who introduced him and the other future members of Radiohead to jazz, film scores, postwar avant-garde music, and 20th-century classical music. Greenwood said: "When we started, it was very important that we got support from him, because we weren't getting any from the headmaster. You know, the man once sent us a bill, charging us for the use of school property, because we practiced in one of the music rooms on a Sunday."
According to Greenwood, he began playing bass out of necessity, teaching himself by playing along to New Order, Joy Division and Otis Redding. Among his musical influences are Booker T and the MGs, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield. He said: "We were people who picked up their respective instruments because we wanted to play music together, rather than just because we wanted to play that particular instrument. So it was more of a collective angle, and if you could contribute by having someone else play your instrument, then that was really cool. I don’t think of myself as a bass player anyway. I’m just in a band with other people."
In late 1991, after a chance meeting between Colin Greenwood and A&R representative Keith Wozencroft at Our Price, the record shop where Greenwood worked, On a Friday signed a six-album recording contract with EMI and changed their name to Radiohead. By 2011, Radiohead had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2019.
Greenwood mostly plays fingerstyle, and described himself as "rubbish with a pick". He mainly uses Fender basses and Ampeg and Ashdown amplifiers. He also plays instruments including double bass and synthesisers. He said: "My involvement is to play bass guitar, but our ideas and suggestions in certain areas, as to where the music should go or develop, are listened to. We are very much a band."
Of being in a band with his younger brother Jonny, Colin said: "Beyond the normal brotherly thing, I respect him as a person and a musician." On another occasion, he said: “It’s wonderful, it’s good, it makes my promise to keep an eye on him for my mother a lot easier, having him right next to me all the time. But he’s very easy to look after anyway, 'cause he’s very well behaved."
In 1997, Greenwood participated in a marketing campaign for his alma mater Cambridge University, posing for a photo with students from both state and private schools for a poster titled "Put Yourself in the Picture". The poster was "designed to break down some of the stereotypes that deter able students from applying to Cambridge and encourage more state school applicants".
Greenwood contributed bass to Jonny Greenwood's debut solo work Bodysong (2003), the score for the 2008 film Woodpecker, the 2018 album Amir by Belgian-Egyptian singer Tamino, He played bass guitar on ‘Oxygen Mask’ a track on ‘World’s strongest man’ by Gaz Coombes in 2018 and Earth (2020), the debut solo album by his Radiohead bandmate Ed O'Brien. He contributed beat programming to Yorke's 2014 solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.
In 2004, Greenwood participated on a panel in the annual sixth form conference run by Radley College in collaboration with School of St Helen and St Katharine, speaking on digital-rights management (DRM) from. In 2013, Greenwood soundtracked a Dries van Noten runway show, performing solo bass guitar. In 2018, he reviewed Michael Palin's book Erebus: The Story of a Ship for the Spectator.
Greenwood enjoys writers such as Thomas Pynchon, V.S. Naipaul and Delmore Schwartz. In December 1998, he married Molly McGrann, an American literary critic and novelist. They have three sons, Jesse, born in December 2003, Asa, born in December 2005, and Henry, born in December 2009. They live in Oxford.
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