Radiohead Knowledge Base

Jonathan Richard Guy "Jonny" Greenwood (born 5th November 1971) is an English musician and composer best known as the lead guitarist and keyboardist of the alternative rock band Radiohead. Noted for his aggressive playing style, which features heavy use of effects, melodic arpeggios - often played in unusual time signatures - and unique use of noises and feedbacks (particularly from the album Kid A onward), Greenwood is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

A multi-instrumentalist, Greenwood also plays instruments including the bass guitar, drums, viola, harmonica, and the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument. Along with the other members of Radiohead, he also works with electronic instruments and techniques such as programming, sampling and looping, and writes music software used by Radiohead.

Greenwood composed the soundtracks for the films Bodysong (2003), There Will Be Blood (2007), Norwegian Wood (2010), We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011), The Master (2012), Inherent Vice (2014) and The Phantom Thread (2017), he also serves as composer-in-residence for the BBC Concert Orchestra. He is the younger brother of Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood.

Early Life

Jonny Greenwood was born on the 5th November 1971 in Oxford, England.

When he was a child, Jonny's family only had four cassettes in their car: the songs of Simon and Garfunkel "(though bizarrely not sung by them)", Mozart’s horn concertos, and two musicals ("Flower Drum Song" and "My Fair Lady"). When the cassettes weren't playing, Jonny would listen to the noise of the engine and try to recall every detail of the music.

Along with his older brother, Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, he attended the private boys' school Abingdon School, where he met his bandmates Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar), Ed O'Brien (guitar, backing vocals), and Phil Selway (drums) and joined their band On a Friday. The youngest member of the band, Greenwood was two school years below Yorke and his brother, and the last to join. He first played harmonica and then keyboards, but soon became the lead guitarist, and had previously been in a band called Illiterate Hands with Nigel Powell and Yorke's brother Andy Yorke.


Greenwood is the only member of Radiohead to have been classically trained on any instrument, and the only band member without a university degree; he was three weeks into a degree in music and psychology at Oxford Brookes University when Radiohead, then known as On a Friday, signed a recording contract with EMI in 1991, and left soon after. Greenwood stated that hearing Krzysztof Penderecki during that time had a significant influence on his perception of modern classical music.

Greenwood's influence on Radiohead's recording and writing can be heard in many songs, as he usually takes the traditional lead guitarist role. In the 1990s, Greenwood wore an arm brace due to a repetitive strain injury attributed to his aggressive playing, saying "it's like taping up your fingers before a boxing match."

Greenwood is often credited as the second major influence on songwriting in Radiohead, next to Thom Yorke. He wrote the music for the closing track of OK Computer, (The Tourist), and the intro, chorus and outro sections of the song Subterranean Homesick Alien from OK Computer, as well as the final section of Paranoid Android. According to Yorke, the track Just from The Bends was "a competition by me and Jonny to get as many chords as possible into a song". An example of Greenwood's versatility is his use of the ondes Martenot, which is featured on songs such as The National Anthem and How To Disappear Completely from the album Kid A, and Pyramid Song from the album Amnesiac. The song Where I End and You Begin from Hail To the Thief, which also features the instrument, was dedicated to the memory of Jeanne Loriod, a pioneer of the Martenot. Greenwood is interviewed by Suzanne Binet-Audet about his affection for the instrument and briefly plays it in the 2012 documentary film Wavemakers.

Greenwood and Yorke also collaborated on the song Arpeggi which is a piece in a classical style centred around arpeggios for voice, ondes, and orchestra. It was performed with the London Sinfonietta and Arab Orchestra of Nazareth at the Ether Festival in March 2005; the song would later be adapted for the full band to play in 2006, rearranged for guitar. A studio version (closer to the full band version than the orchestral version) appeared on the album In Rainbows as Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.

Greenwood is a computer programmer and builds software used in Radiohead's music. He became interested in programming when he was young, "playing around first with BASIC, then these primitive hex assemblers. Just simple bits of machine code – the closer I got to the bare bones of the computer, the more exciting I found it." At the suggestion of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Greenwood began using the music programming language Max, and said: "I got to reconnect properly with computers ... I didn't have to use someone else's idea of what a delay, or a reverb, or a sequencer should do, or should sound like – I could start from the ground, and think in terms of sound and maths. It was like coming off the rails." Greenwood wrote the software Radiohead used to sample their playing for their eighth album, The King Of Limbs (2011).

Personal Life

In 1995 he married Israeli-born Sharona Katan, a visual artist whose work (credited as Shin Katan) appears on the covers of the Bodysong soundtrack as well as the There Will Be Blood soundtrack. Their first son, Tamir, was born in 2002 and the 2003 Radiohead album Hail To the Thief was dedicated to him. They also have a daughter named Omri, born in 2005, and a second son, named Zohar, who was born in February 2008.

Jonny is red-green colorblind .