Although Jimi Hendrix has been gone for almost 40 years, it's a testament to his musical genius that today's musicians still try to emulate his style. Jimi Hendrix was born a "once in a lifetime artist" who delivered some of the most explosive and revolutionary rock music of the 20th century. Widely hailed by fans, critics and peers alike, Jimi Hendrix to this day retains his crown as #1 guitarist on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of 100 great guitarists of all time.
An American musician of African, European, Cherokee Indian and Mexican descent, Jimi was born Johnny Allen Hendrix (so named by his mother Lucille Jeter) in Seattle's King County Hospital on November 27,1942. At the time, Jimi's father James "Al" Hendrix was in the army. An unsettled home environment resulted in Jimi spending much of his early childhood staying with his grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, in Canada. At three years old, Jimi was formally renamed James Marshall Hendrix by his father. When Jimi's parents divorced, father Al took on the responsibility for his son's upbringing.
From an early age, Jimi was drawn to music. He was a shy, sensitive child and in his difficult, poverty-stricken childhood, music provided the only ray of sunshine. His father owned some B.B. King and Muddy Waters records that Jimi loved listening to over and over. He also drew influence from other major artists of the time such as Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Holly, and Robert Johnson. Then, in Seattle 1957 Jimi attended a performance by Elvis Presley and was deeply impressed.
Jimi would strum a straw broom as a poor guitar substitution. Al took notice of his son's interest in the guitar and recalled, "I used to have Jimmy clean up the bedroom all the time while I was gone, and when I would come home I would find a lot of broom straws around the foot of the bed. I'd say to him, "Well didn't you sweep up the floor?" and he'd say, "Oh yeah, he did. But I'd find out later that he used to be sitting at the end of the bed there and strumming the broom like he was playing a guitar."
Al gave Jimi an old one-string ukulele to play, which was a huge improvement over the broom. By the summer of 1958, Al picked up a five-dollar, second-hand acoustic guitar from one of his friends. Jimi practiced day and night and even slept with his guitar by his side. Shortly thereafter, Jimi joined his first band, The Velvetones, but after three months he left to pursue his own interests. In the summer of 1959, Al purchased Jimi's first electric guitar - a Supro Ozark 1560, which Jimi used when he joined the Rocking Kings. From then on, there was no looking back - the future rock star was on his way.
Although Jimi did not know how to read music, he had the gift of playing by ear alone. Entirely self taught, he slowly developed his own original and flamboyant playing style. In addition, he developed the art of playing a right-handed guitar with his left hand by restringing the guitar and turning it upside down.
After leaving school at the age of 16, Jimi played in rock 'n roll teenage bands before voluntarily joining the army at age 17. In 1961, Jimmy left home to enlist in the United States Army and in November 1962 earned the right to wear the "Screaming Eagles" patch for the paratroop division. While stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Jimi formed his first band - The King Kasuals - along with fellow soldier and bassist Billy Cox. After 14 months as a paratrooper, learning a lot about falling and flying, he sustained an injury during a parachute jump and was honorably discharged from the army. At this point, Jimi decided to enter the music field and began working as a session guitarist under the name Jimmy James.
By the end of 1965, Jimi had played with several marquee acts, including Ike and Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers, and Little Richard. Jimi wasn't content being a backline guitarist and after parting ways with Little Richard, he moved to New York, formed his own band - Jimmy James and the Blue Flames - and spent much of his time playing small venue gigs around Greenwich Village. Even then, Jimi's extraordinary guitar playing made him a standout.
One evening, while playing at Café Wha?, Jimi caught the attention of Chas Chandler, bassist for the British pop group The Animals. Chas was impressed with Jimi's explosive, over the top performance and returned again in September 1966 to sign Jimi to an agreement that would have him move to London to form a new band. Chas convinced Jimi to fly to England with him. Once in England, Chas switched careers from bass player to manager, changed "Jimmy's" name to "Jimi", added bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell and formed a new band, "The Jimi Hendrix Experience."
The Jimi Hendrix Experience took London by storm in the fall of 1966 and quickly became the talk of the town. Jimi's ferocious guitar playing made the reigning British superstars - Eric Clapton, The Beatles and The Who - seem tame in comparison. Jimi was doing things with his guitar that were thought to be impossible. He immediately garnered respect from his peers and adoration from his crowds of fans.
The band released three albums Jimmy Hendrix Burning His Fender Guitar" in succession - Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (also 1967), and Electric Ladyland (1968), which includes Jimi's version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower"). Are You Experienced? is still one of the most popular rock albums of all time, featuring tracks like "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary," "Foxey Lady," "Fire," and "Are You Experienced?" (The single, "Purple Haze" remains one of rock's all time classics.)
Although Jimi experienced overwhelming success in Britain, America remained seemingly immune to his popularity. But that was to change with the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where at the insistence of Paul McCartney, Jimi was given a chance to play. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones introduced Jimi as "the most exciting performer I've ever heard." When Jimi performed his impassioned version of "Wild Thing" the audience went wild. As a finale, he outrageously poured lighter fluid on his Fender Stratocaster and set it ablaze. He then proceeded to smash the burning guitar, and toss the pieces into the frenzied crowd. America was immediately ignited by the Jimi phenomenon and his homecoming was triumphant!
Throughout 1968, the demands of relentless touring, the pressures of sudden fame, and various other problems had a major impact on the group. Unfortunately, in February 1969, after the release of their third album, the Jimi Hendrix Experience disbanded.
The Jimi phenomenon, however, was not about to be stopped. Along with Mitch Mitchell, army buddy Billy Cox, Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez, Jimi formed a new band - Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. It was with this group that he played at the "Woodstock Festival in August 1969. The highlight of the festival was Jimi's violent and impressionistic rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner".
When Jimi later appeared on The Dick Cavett show, Cavett questioned this controversial and unorthodox performance. Jimi replied, "I thought it was beautiful." The applauding audience obviously agreed.
Jimi next formed a new collaboration in 1969, Band of Gypsys, featuring bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles from Electric Flag. The trio played four New Year's performances on December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970. Highlights from these performances were included on the Band of Gypsys album (1970) and also on the expanded 1999 version of "Hendrix: Live At The Fillmore East".
As 1970 progressed, Jimi reunited with drummer Mitch Mitchell and along with Billy Cox on bass the trio revived The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The group began work on a new album tentatively titled First Ray of The New Rising Sun. This year also saw the grand opening of Jimi's very own recording studio, Electric Lady. He couldn't wait to start recording in the studio but destiny had other plans.
On September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London of asphyxiation, just two short weeks before the death of another rock icon, Janis Joplin. The suddenness of his untimely death was a grievous shock to his legions of friends, fans, peers and every guitar and rock music lover.
Because he was unable to read or write music, it is nothing short of astounding that Jimi Hendrix's meteoric rise took place in just four short years. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 as a member of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His music continues to influence today's musicians, from George Clinton to Miles Davis, and Steve Vai to Jonny Lang.
Fellow artist and admirer, Pete Townshend of The Who, summed up Jimi's flamboyant performances when he said, "I feel sad for people who have to judge Jimi Hendrix on the basis of recordings and film alone, because in the flesh he was so extraordinary. He had a kind of alchemist's ability; when he was on stage, he changed. He physically changed. He became incredibly graceful and beautiful."
In May 2006 the town of Seattle paid honor to the music, artistry, and legend of Jimi Hendrix by naming a park after him, which is located in the heart of the Central District near Seattle's historic Colman School.
Jimi Hendrix may be gone, but as long as we have access to his albums and modern artists keep interpreting his style, Jimi's music will live on forever.
Mitch, Jimi, Noel
Monterey Fairgrounds June 16, 1967
Jimi Hendrix Experience Poster
Fillmore Auditorium Feb. 1, 1968
Singer Bowl Aug. 23, 1968
Oakland Coliseum Arena Apr. 27, 1969
Woodstock Aug. 18, 1969
Middle Georgia Raceway July 3, 1970
Jimi with father Al
Are You Experienced? - (1967)
1. Purple Haze
2. Manic Depression
3. Hey Joe
4. Love Or Confusion
5. May This Be Love
6. I Don't live Today
7. The Wind Cries Mary
9. Third Stone From The Sun
10. Foxey Lady
11. Are You Experienced?
Axis: Bold as Love - (1967)
2. Up From The Skies
3. Spanish Castle Magic
4. Wait Until Tomorrow
5. Ain't No Telling
6. Little Wing
7. If 6 Was 9
8. You Got Me Floatin'
9. Castles Made Of Sand
10. She's So Fine
11. One Rainy Wish
12. Little Miss Lover
13. Bold As Love
Electric Ladyland (Double Album) - (1968)
1. Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
2. Crosstown Traffic
3. Voodoo Chile
4. Little Miss Strange
5. Long Hot Summer Night
6. Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)
7. Gypsy Eyes
8. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
9. Rainy Day, Dream Away
10. 1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
11. Moon, Turn The Tides...gently gently away
12. Still Raining, Still Dreaming
13. House Burning Down
14. All Along The Watchtower
15. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Band Of Gypsys (Live) - (1970)
1. Who Knows
2. Machine Gun
4. Power Of Soul
5. Message To Love
6. We Gotta Live Together
Cry Of Love - (1971)
3. Ezy Rider
4. Night Bird Flying
5. My Friend
6. Straight Ahead
7. Astro Man
9. In From The Storm
10. Belly Button Window
Rainbow Bridge - (1971)
1. Dolly Dagger
2. Earth Blues
3. Pali Gap (Instrumental)
4. Room Full Of Mirrors
5. Star Spangled Banner (Instrumental)
6. Look Over Yonder
7. Hear My Train A Comin'
8. Hey Baby
10. Stepping Stone
11. Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne (Instrumental)
War Heroes - (1972)
1. Bleeding Heart
2. Highway Chile
3. Tax Free
4. Peter Gunn Catastrophe
5. Stepping Stone
7. 3 Little Bears
Loose Ends (UK) - (1974)
1. Come Down Hard on Me Baby
2. Blue Suede Shoes
3. Jam 292
4. The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice
5. Drifter's Escape
6. Burning Desire
7. Born a Hootchie Kootchie Man
8. Electric Ladyland
Crash Landing - (1975)
1. Message to Love
2. Somewhere Over the Rainbow
3. Crash Landing
4. Come Down Hard on Me
5. Peace in Mississippi
6. With the Power
7. Stone Free Again
8. Captain Coconut
Midnight Lightning - (1975)
2. Midnight Lightning
3. Hear My Train A Comin'
4. Gypsy Boy
5. Blue Suede Shoes
6. Machine Gun
7. Once I Had a Woman
Nine to the Universe - (1980)
1. Message from Nine to the Universe
2. Jimi/Jimmy Jam
4. Easy Blues
5. Drone Blues
Radio One - (1988)
1. Stone Free
2. Radio One Theme
3. Day Tripper
4. Killing Floor
5. Love Or Confusion
6. Drivin' South (Instrumental)
7. Catfish Blues
8. Wait Until Tomorrow
9. Hear My Train A Comin'
10. Hound Dog
12. Hoochie Koochie Man
13. Purple Haze
14. Spanish Castle Magic
15. Hey Joe
16. Foxey Lady
17. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
Other Albums (Greatest Hits, Compilations & Box Sets)
Smash Hits (UK 1968) (US 1969) (LP) Electric Jimi Hendrix (UK 1968) (LP) Sound Track Recordings from the Film Jimi Hendrix (1973) (LP) Musique Originale du Film Jimi Plays Berkeley (1975) (LP) Re-Experienced (1975) (LP) The Essential Jimi Hendrix (1978) (LP) The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two (1979) (LP) Stone Free (1981) (LP) The Singles Album (1983) (LP) Kiss the Sky (1984) (LP, CD) The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volumes One and Two (1989) (CD) Live & Unreleased: The Radio Show (1989) (CD, LP) Cornerstones: 1967-1970 (1990) (CD, LP) Lifelines: The Jimi Hendrix Story (1990) (CD) Sessions (1991) (CD) Footlights (1991) (CD) Stages (1991) (CD) The Ultimate Experience (1992) (CD, LP) Blues (1994) (CD) Voodoo Soup (1995) (CD) First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997) (CD, LP) South Saturn Delta (1997) (CD, LP) BBC Sessions (1998) (CD, LP) Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix (1998) (CD, LP) The Jimi Hendrix Experience (2000) (CD) Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (2001) (CD) The Singles Collection (2003) (CD) Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Jimi Hendrix (2003) (CD)
Greatest Songs of Jimi Hendrix
1. All Along The Watchtower
2. Purple Haze
3. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
4. Little Wing
5. Hey Joe
6. The Wind Cries Mary
8. Machine Gun
9. Foxey Lady
10. Night Bird Flying
11. Crosstown Traffic
12. Message To Love
13. Manic Depression
14. Wild Thing (Live)
15. Stone Free
17. Red House
18. Are You Experienced?
19. Up from the Skies
20. Stepping Stone
21. Dolly Dagger
24. Ezy Ryder
25. The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
26. Spanish Castle Magic
27. Highway Chile
28. In From The Storm
29. Bold As Love
30. If 6 Was 9
Jimi Hendrix Placement On DDD Lists (as of 10/09):
100 Greatest Rock Guitarists - #1
100 Most Influential Rock 'n' Roll Artists - #7
100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artists of The '60s - #9
100 Greatest Artists of Rock - #10
100 Greatest 'Live' Artists - #15
100 Greatest Frontmen of Rock - #16
100 Greatest Lyricists of Rock 'n' Roll - #74
100 Greatest Rock Albums - #9 Are You Experienced?, #64 Electric Ladyland, #100 Axis Bold As Love
100 Greatest Rock Albums Of The 60s - #6 Are You Experienced?, #18 Electric Ladyland, #25 Axis Bold As Love
100 Greatest Psychedelic Albums - #6 Electric Ladyland, #24 Are You Experienced?
100 Greatest Rock Debut Albums - #1 Are You Experienced?
100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Songs of the '60s - #20 All Along The Watchtower
100 Greatest Rock Songs - #13 All Along The Watchtower, #41 Purple Haze, #61 Voodoo Child (slight return)
100 Greatest Psychedelic Songs - #5 Are You Experienced, #55 And The Gods Made Love
100 Greatest Rock Debut Singles - #84 Hey Joe
100 Greatest Rock Guitar Solos - #3 All Along The Watchtower, #19 Voodoo Child (slight return), #35 Red House
100 Greatest Rock Guitar Riffs - #11 Purple Haze, #17 Voodoo Child (Slight Return), #21 Foxey Lady, #70 All Along The Watchtower
100 Greatest Rock Drummers - #23 Mitch Mitchell
100 Greatest Rock Bass Guitarists - #67 Billy Cox (Band Of Gypsys)
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