Song Spotlight: Crossfire by Stevie Ray Vaughan


Probably one of the longest-brewing debates on the internet is who exactly is the greatest guitarist of all time. It’s such an interesting discussion because there are so many amazing players who each bring their own style to the wide landscape of music. 

Born and raised in Dallas,, Stevie Ray Vaughan would go on to become a legendary guitar player. He became known for both his energetic, virtuous playing style and blend of traditional rock and blues, and is often regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He would tragically lose his life in a helicopter crash on August 27th, 1990 at the age of 35.

An obvious choice for many is Jimi Hendrix, as he shaped the way we see and play the electric guitar as we know today. At the same time, Eddie Van Halen (my personal favorite guitarist) shaped the metal and hard rock world and established himself as both an excellent lead and rhythm guitarist. Other contenders include Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, Brian May of Queen, Keith Richard from the Rolling Stones, and many others. 

However, I think one of the few who truly stands up there with Hendrix and Van Halen is another famous Strat player: Stevie Ray Vaughan. Before his tragic death, SRV would not only leave a lasting legacy with his incredible guitar technique, playing and tone, but would produce some of the best blues rock tracks of the 80s. 

One particular song, released near the end of his career, is this article’s song spotlight: “Crossfire.” 

Born in Dallas, Stevie Ray Vaughan began playing guitar at age seven, inspired by his older Jimmie. Eventually moving to Austin, Vaughan made a name for himself by playing various gigs in and around the city, eventually forming the blues-rock group Double Trouble, with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. Double Trouble was later joined by keyboardist Reese Wynans. 

Following the release of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s critically acclaimed debut Texas Flood, SRV released four more albums before his death in a helicopter accident. Vaughan’s incredible guitar playing and unique blend of rock and blues earned him plenty of admirers, as well as several notable songs, such as “Pride and Joy,” “Cold Shot,” “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” the instrumental “Lenny,” and his only number one hit, “Crossfire.”

“Crossfire” was the lead single off of SRV’s fourth and final studio album, In Step, released in 1989. Despite his popularity and having several famous songs, “Crossfire” was the only song of his ever to reach number one on the charts. However, after listening to the track, it’s easy to see how. 

“In Step”, released in 1989, is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s fourth studio album with Double Trouble, and the final album to be released during his lifetime. Its name is a reference to Vaughan’s newfound sobriety, as he entered rehab following years of alcohol and drug abuse. It charted at number 33 on the US Billboard chart. “Crossfire” is SRV’s only number one hit, although his other songs still remain popular.

The song begins with a quick drum fill from Layton followed by some excellent bass playing from Shannon. Soon, that classic organ tone courtesy of Wynans and SRV’s unmistakable guitar licks enter the fray. What makes the song stick out for me is the fact that it focuses more on a rather underappreciated aspect of Stevie Ray Vaughan: His voice. 

Vaughan’s ultra-smooth, gravely, blues-ridden vocals make up the bulk of the song’s runtime, along with the rest of the band and some occasional use of saxophone. The song almost feels like there are two singers, Stevie Ray himself and his guitar providing backing vocals. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a SRV song without an incredible solo, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The entire latter half of the song is a guitar player’s dream; fast and bluesy licks and an outro chord thrashing that’s guaranteed to give you goosebumps. 

The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of a dog-eat-dog world, with people only looking out for themselves and barely managing to scrape by. This is only amplified by the incredible music video, which features SRV and the rest of the band playing in various run-down, shady settings; these include a seedy hotel, bar, and the top of an abandoned building where Vaughan plays his amazing solo.

“Crossfire,” by all means, is a blues rock classic. It mixes traditional blues, jazz, and rock into an incredibly catchy display of musical skill. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s excellent guitar playing and vocal chops are the main stars, but “Crossfire” gives the other members of Double Trouble their due credit. Even with his short career, SRV deserves his place as not only one of the greatest blues players but one of the greatest guitar players of all time.