Jonny Greenwood | Biography 2021
Jonny Greenwood | Biography 2021

Quick Information

  • Full Name Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood
  • Birthplace Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
  • Born Year And Birthday 5-11-1971
  • Siblings Colin Greenwood

Jonny Greenwood | Biography 2021

Guitarist and Composer

​​​​​​​Jonny Greenwood is a British rock musician and composer best known as the lead guitarist and keyboardist of the alternative rock band Radiohead.

Quick Information
  • Full Name Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood
  • Birthplace Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
  • Profession Guitarist and Composer
  • Birth Date 5-11-1971
  • Siblings Colin Greenwood

Jonny Greenwood is a rock musician and composer best known as the lead guitarist and keyboardist of the British alternative rock band Radiohead.

Who is Jonny Greenwood?

Greenwood is Radiohead’s lead guitarist and keyboardist, known for his aggressive guitar work. Rolling Stone ranked him in the 48th position in the list of 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2015.

He is a multi-instrumentalist, who is skilled in playing the bass guitar, piano, harmonica, Ondes Martenot, viola, and drums. 

Greenwood is also a proficient composer. He composed the scores for multiple films, including Bodysong (2003), There Will Be Blood (2007), Norwegian Wood (2010), and The Phantom Thread (2017).

Early Life and Education

Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood, aka Jonny Greenwood, was born on November 5, 1971, in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. He belonged to a middle-class family, and his father served in the Army. 

He grew up with his elder brother Colin, both of whom attended a boys’ school Abingdon School in Oxfordshire.


While attending school, Colin first met future Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke as a schoolmate. Later, the duo came into contact with guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Phil Selway. They regularly rehearsed music every Friday in the school’s music room, eventually leading them to form the band On a Friday (Radiohead’s initial name) in 1985. Initially, Greenwood was not part of the band, but he used to hang out with the band members while they rehearsed. 

Finally, he joined On a Friday when he was 14 to play harmonica. He sat on stage with a harmonica at the band’s first gig in 1987 at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. He was the youngest member of the band, who was two school years below his brother.

The band went into hiatus for around four years as the four older members went off to college in 1987 to pursue their university education.

At the age of 19, Greenwood also went on to study music and psychology at Oxford Brookes University. However, he dropped out of the university when his bandmates signed a six-album recording agreement with EMI Records' subsidiary Parlophone in late 1991. They changed their band's name from On a Friday to Radiohead when they started their professional musical journey. Greenwood, who entered Radiohead by first playing the harmonica, also took on the keyboardist’s role and, finally, the band’s guitarist.

In late 1992, Radiohead came up with the startling single 'Creep,' in which Greenwood’s striking and bursting guitar work marked Radiohead as more than just another mopey band. 'Creep' made waves in the United States. Radiohead also released other singles from their album debut album—Pablo Honey—released in 1993, but they could not escape the one-hit-wonder stigma as only 'Creep' made it to the radios and charts.

In 1995, Radiohead released their second album, The Bends, which took the band’s ardent fans by surprise, as it featured Greenwood’s guitar pyrotechnics and the mature side of the group with their numbers like 'Street Spirit' and 'Fake Plastic Trees.'

By then, Greenwood’s aggressive style of playing guitar, unfortunately, started taking a toll on his right wrist. He started wearing a wrist brace to relieve the pain and to provide support to the joint. Greenwood continued to wear it even after his wrist was better since the brace had become something of a Greenwood’s trademark. 

In 1997, Radiohead released their third album, Ok Computer, featuring innovative and brilliant guitar work. Greenwood revealed his versatility by using the Ondes Marenot in Radiohead’s fourth album Kid A (2000). 

Solo Career

In late 2003,  Greenwood composed his first film score. It was for Simon Dummell’s documentary Bodysong, which contained classical, guitar, oddball hip-hop beats, and even honking, sideways jazz. It opened doors to pursue his career as a composer. 

He got hired by BBC Concert Orchestra as a composer in residence in 2004, where he wrote pieces like Smear, Piano for Children, and Popcorn Superhet Receiver.

In 2007, Greenwood composed a critically acclaimed score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Academy Award-winning drama film There Will Be Blood

His composing work continued with the soundtrack for the big-screen adaptation of Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood in 2010, followed by We Need to Talk About Kevin, a film adaptation Lionel Shriver’s novel, in 2011.

In 2012, Greenwood reunited with Anderson for the soundtrack to the psychological drama film The Master. He collaborated in several other Anderson’s works in the future. In March of the same year, he collaborated with one of his biggest inspirations, Krzysztof Penderecki, and composed 48 Responses to Polymorphia

The Australian Chamber of Orchestra commissioned him to compose the piece Water, which premiered during his residency in Sydney in 2014. 

In 2015, Greenwood collaborated with Israeli composer Shy Ben Tzur, Indian ensemble the Rajasthan Express, and producer Nigel Godrich while traveling to the Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India.

The following year, he worked on string orchestrations for Frank Ocean’s studio albums Endless and Blond. In 2017, he scored Anderson’s historical drama film Phantom Thread, which landed Greenwood his first nomination for Best Original Score at the 90th Academy Awards in 2018.

In 2019, he started his classical music label, Octatonic Records.

Greenwood won the Large Orchestral Award for his 2019 violin concerto, Horror vacui, at the 2020 Ivors Composer Awards.

Personal Life

Greenwood married Israile-born Sharona Katan, a visual artist, in 1995. Together the couple has three children—son Tamir, born in 2002, daughter Omri, born in 2005, and second son Zohar, born in 2008.

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