Charles Henry “Charlie” Christian (July 29, 1916 – March 2, 1942) was an American swing and jazz guitarist.
Christian was an important early performer on the electric guitar and a key figure in the development of bebop and cool jazz. He gained national exposure as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra from August 1939 to June 1941. His single-string technique, combined with amplification, helped bring the guitar out of the rhythm section and into the forefront as a solo instrument. John Hammond and George T. Simon called Christian the best improvisational talent of the swing era. In the liner notes to the 1972 Columbia album Solo Flight: The Genius of Charlie Christian, Gene Lees wrote that “Many critics and musicians consider that Christian was one of the founding fathers of bebop, or if not that, at least a precursor to it.”
Christian’s influence reached beyond jazz and swing. In 1990, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the category Early Influence.