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Hendrix, Jimi 1942-1970

Jimi Hendrix 1942-1970

Guitarist; singer, songwriter, composer

Raised by His Father

Performed on the Chitlin Circuit

Gave Experience New Meaning

Stirred Up a Purple Haze

Revamped the National Anthem

Selected discography

Sources

In the few years between his emergence as a solo artist and his death from a barbiturate overdose at the height of his fame, Jimi Hendrix wrought a slew of radical changes on pop music. Arguably the most innovative electric guitarist of all time, he combined the raw passion of the blues, the sonic aggression of hard rock, the aural adventure of psychedelia and modern jazz, and the symphonic lyricism of progressive soul, melding these disparate inclinations into a style that, even when heard in fragments, remains unmistakably his own.

Had his instrumental prowess been his only contribution, Hendrix would remain a towering figure in modern music. But he was also a supremely gifted songwriter, as the myriad cover versions of his songs by such diverse artists as Eric Clapton, the Pretenders, Frank Zappa, Rickie Lee Jones, Living Colour, The Cure, jazz composer Gil Evans, and many others attest. When funk pioneer George Clinton was asked by a Rolling Stone interviewer how Hendrix had influenced Clintons band Funkadelic, he responded, He was it. He took noise to church.

At the time of his death, Hendrix was working desperately on an ambitious project that seemed designed to bridge a dazzling array of musical territories. Though he never completed that record, he did lay the groundwork for a range of bold stylistic hybrids, and he continues to influence those who hear his work. Hendrix left an indelible, fiercely individual mark on popular music, wrote David Fricke in Rolling Stone, accelerating rocks already dynamic rate of change in the late 1960s with his revolutionary synthesis of guitar violence, improvisational nerve, spacey melodic reveries and a confessional intensity born of the blues. Indeed, as one of the late musicians friends told the authors of the biography Electric Gypsy, Hendrix revealed, I sacrifice part of my soul every time I play.

Raised by His Father

The man who would achieve fame as Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, in 1942. His father, Ala gifted jazz dancer who worked at a number of jobs including landscape gardeningbore much of the responsibility of raising the boy and his brother, Leon, as did their grandmother and various

At a Glance

Born Johnny Allen (later changed to James Marshall) Hendrix, November 27,1942, in Seattle, WA; died of a barbituate overdose, September 18, 1970, in London, England; son of Al (a jazz dancer and landscape gardener) and Lucille Jeter Hendrix.

Guitarist with the Rocking Kings, mid-1950s; performed with quintet while in armed forces, c 1959; performed with the King Kasuals at the El Morocco club and backed R&B performers, Nashville, TN, early 1960s; performed with Curtis Mayfield, Little Richard, Curtis Knight, the Isley Brothers, and many others, 196365; signed with PPX Productions, 1965; performed with Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, Cafe Wha?, New York City; formed Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1966; signed with Track Records, 1966; signed in the U.S. with Reprise Records and released groups debut album, Are You Experienced, 1967; performed at Monterey Pop Festival, 1967; dissolved band, 1969; performed at Woodstock Music and Crafts Fair, 1969; formed group Band of Gypsys and released eponymous live album, 1970. Military service: U.S. Army, 101st airborne division, discharged 1961.

Awards: Named pop musician of the year by Melody Maker, 1967 and 1968; voted Billboard artist of the year, 1968; named performer of the year and honored for rock album of the year by Rolling Stone, 1968; presented key to city of Seattle, 1968; elected to Down Beat Hall of Fame in readers poll, 1970; named rock guitarist of the year, 1970, and received lifetimeachievementaward, 1983, from Guitar Player; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1992; Lifetime Achievement Award, Grammy Awards, 1993.

family friends. This was due to the unreliability of Als wife, Lucille, who drank excessively and would disappear for extended periods. Al Hendrix won custody of his sons and exercised as much discipline as he could, but the boysyoung Johnny especiallyworshipped their absentee mother; numerous biographers have hypothesized that in later years the guitarist looked to her as his muse. Al later changed his older sons name to James Marshall Hendrix.

Jimmy Hendrix wanted a guitar early on; before acquiring his first real instrument, he plucked a number of surrogates, including a broom and a one-stringed ukelele. Al at last procured a guitar for him, and the precocious 12-year-old restrung it upside downas a left-hander, he was forced to turn the instrument in the opposite direction from how it is usually played, which left the low strings on the bottom unless he rearranged themproceeding to teach himself blues songs from records by greats like B. B. King and Muddy Waters. The guitar rarely left his side and even lay beside him as he slept. By his mid-teens, Hendrix was playing blues and R&B with his band the Rocking Kings. He played behind his back, between his legs, and over his headas had many blues guitarists before him. Thus he endeared himself to audiences, if not to all musicians.

It was therefore a shock to his father and friends when Hendrix joined the armed forces at age 17 and left his guitar behind. He volunteered for the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper and was soon jumping out of airplanes (he would later use his instrument to evoke the otherworldly sounds and sensations of f reef all). Eventually he sent for his guitar and became the object of much derision and abuse from his peers, who considered Hendrixs extravagant devotion to the instrument freakish.

Performed on the Chitlin Circuit

An exception was a young private named Billy Cox. Himself an aspiring bassist with a taste for jazz as well as R&B, Cox overheard guitar music coming from inside a club on the camp that sounded, as he told Electric Gypsy authors Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek, somewhere between [German classical composer Ludwig von] Beethoven and [blues icon] John Lee Hooker. He immediately suggested that he and Hendrix form a band; soon their quintet was entertaining troops all over the region. Eventually, though, Hendrix tired of army discipline and managedwith the help of a well-timed and overdramatized injuryto obtain a discharge. Cox got out two months later.

After a few unproductive months, the two musicians headed for Nashville, Tennessee, which was just gaining a national reputation for its recording scene. Their new band, the King Kasualsa revamped version of their service combolanded a regular gig at the El Morocco club. Hendrix rapidly established himself as one of the hottest guitarists in town. At the time, however, he had no confidence in his singing and was content to back R&B artists, among them Curtis Mayfield, whose soulful guitar playing combined rhythm and lead and strongly influenced Hendrixs later balladry.

Over the next few years, Hendrix logged time in several R&B road showson what came to be known, somewhat disparagingly, as the Chitlin Circuitthough he didnt last long with any one act; his wild hair and compelling stage presence often stole the thunder from bandleaders who expected their musicians to play their assigned parts and stay in the background. From the seminal rocker Little Richard, Hendrix lifted much of what would become his signature look as an artist. Richard admired the guitarists playing but viewed his taste for the limelight as a threat. The Isley Brothers gave Hendrix a bit more freedom; he was allowed to stretch out onstage and contributed a fiery solo to their 1964 single Testify. The Isley Brothers hit showcases the passion and budding virtuosity that would soon make Hendrix a sensation.

Hendrix then played with saxophonist King Curtis and later with friend Curtis Knight (cowriting and recording some sides with the latter that would be exploited after he achieved fame). In 1965 he signedfor a one-dollar advancea record contract with Knights manager and PPX Productions head Ed Chalpin, the first of many costly and ill-advised legal entanglements that characterized Hendrixs career. It was around this time that he formed his own group, Jimmy James & the Blue Flames (which included a future member of the psychedelic rock group Spirit), moved to New York, and played endless low-paying gigs at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. His increasingly daring guitar work would make itself known, however.

Gave Experience New Meaning

Linda Keith, then girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, was sufficiently impressed by Hendrix to recommend him to Chas Chandler, bassist for British rock sensations the Animals and an aspiring manager. Chandler was stunned by Hendrix and urged him to come to London. The road-weary Hendrix was justifiably skeptical, but Chandler turned out to be the real thing. Soon the guitarist was en route to the United Kingdom.

Chandler suggested changing the spelling of Hendrixs first name to Jimi, though the oft-cited assertion that he made this suggestion on the flight to London may be untrue. In any event, they touched down in September of 1966 and immediately put a band together with two British musicians, guitarist Noel Reddingwho came to Chandlers office hoping to audition for the Animals but would, instead, be handed a bass for the first timeand jazz-influenced drummer John Mitch Mitchell, who won a coin toss to beat out his only competitor.

Mitchells exuberant, round-the-kit playing combined the frenetic psychedelic blues attack of his most famous British peers with a post-bop virtuosity that recalled Elvin Jones, one-time skinsman for visionary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Many critics would later suggest that the Hendrix-Mitchell chemistry paralleled that between the two jazz players. Thus was born the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Together, they complemented the rhythmic idiosyncrasies of Hendrixs songs and playing style with their own turbulent blend of hardy soul dynamics and breathtaking acid-jazz breakaways, wrote Rolling Stone s Fricke. The sound was fluid enough for open-ended jamming yet free of excess instrumental baggage, tight and heavy in the hard-rock clutches.

Meanwhile, Hendrix had found his voice not only as a songwriter but as a singer. Both his vocalizing and lyrics were profoundly influenced by folk-rock trailblazer Bob Dylan, whose unpretty plainsong voice and personal, surrealistic writing inspired Hendrix to cover his workwitness the rocking hit version of All Along the Watchtowerand to emulate it.

The Experience coalesced in a whirlwind couple of weeks, playing its debut gig in Paris opening for French pop star Johnny Hallyday at the Paris Olympia. Having signed with Track Records, they commenced recording their debut album the following month and by December had released their first single, a cover version of the folk-rock standard Hey Joe. Hendrixs relaxed take on this often frantically rendered song added menace to the violent imagery of the lyrics and lent the title characters flight from justice considerable heft with concise, emotional bursts of lead guitar.

Hey Joe became a hit, and Hendrix proceeded to terrify Londons biggest rock stars with his electrifying stage show. Its the most psychedelic experience I ever had, going to see Hendrix play, guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who told Charles Shaar Murray, author of Crosstown Traffic. When he started to play, something changed: colours changed, everything changed. Town-shendwho claims never to have been a heavy user of psychedelic substancesrecalled flames and water dripping out of the ends of his hands. Eric Clapton, guitar God of rock until Hendrixs arrival, invited the young American onstage to play with his group Cream; soon God slunk offstage and was found in his dressing room with his head in his hands. Cream later wrote their psychedelic riff-rock smash Sunshine of Your Love in tribute to the American firebrand; he eventually adopted it into his live set without knowing hed inspired it.

Unlike Townshend, Hendrix had a special fondness for hallucinogens like LSD and was also an enthusiastic marijuana smoker. In addition, scores of women flocked to him, and his Wild Man of Borneo reputation made him seemto those who didnt know himlike some kind of omnivorous Yank tornado. Yet he is almost universally remembered as a shy, diffident person, occasionally explosive but largely gentle and naive; he was in no way prepared for the stormy sea of fame or the cynical manipulations of the music business. As Shapiro and Glebbeek pointed out in Electric Gypsy, he was dashed between the extremes of sporadic hero worship and institutional racism. Feted as the greatest rock guitarist in the world, acclaimed as a Dionysian superstud and refused service at the tattiest redneck lunch countersJimi Hendrix was treated as superhuman and subhuman, but rarely just human, the authors attest. Even so, he seemed to care little about issues of color and was especially frustrated by the suggestion that he played white music or black music.

Stirred Up a Purple Haze

The Experiences debut album, Are You Experienced? released in the United States on the Reprise labelwas a watershed in popular music, only kept from the top chart position by one of the few albums that arguably exceeds it in importance: the Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Hendrix produced a psychedelic rock anthem in the disoriented Purple Haze, elegiac soul with the ballad The Wind Cries Mary, R&B brimstone with Fire, and proto-jazz rock with Third Stone from the Sun. The U.K. version of the record included the signature Hendrix blues Red House, released the following year in the United States on a singles collection. Are You Experienced? was an epochal debut, full of innovative studio effects and Hendrixs advanced use of feedback and tremolo. Then, in 1967, the band took the landmark Monterey Pop Festival by storm; Hendrixs ceremonial burning of his guitara highly theatrical routine that he somehow invested with the solemnity of a ritual sacrificeleft audiences stunned and appropriately worshipful.

Hendrix returned to the United States a hero. Crowds swarmed to watch this wild man play with his teeth, play behind his head, make relatively explicit love toand, with any luck, torchhis Fender Stratocaster, and otherwise update the blues showman tradition with revolutionary fervor. What sometimes got lost in this impressive performance, to Hendrixs eternal dismay, was the music.

In the meantime, Chas Chandler made the best of the Experiences disastrous, abortive tour with wholesome TV popsters the Monkees by starting a rumor that the ultraconservative Daughters of the American Revolution had forced out the group. When Hendrix wasnt playing concerts or engaging in marathon studio sessions, he could invariably be found jamming at local clubs with anyone and everyone.

The Jimi Hendrix Experiences follow-up album, Axis: Bold as Love, demonstrated Hendrixs balladry and general songcraft to even greater effect, particularly on Little Wing, which has been covered numerous times. Yet Hendrix was deeply dissatisfied by the way his albums had been cut and mixed and by a number of other factors. The trio format limited himRedding played the bass parts Hendrix wrote but added little spice to the band dynamicand he quickly tired of the theatrics audiences had come to expect. When he neglected to play the flashy guitar hero, crowds often grew restless, filling him with frustration and even contempt.

Hendrix longed to expand his musical range and to this end began work on the one album over which he exercised complete control, the sprawling double-length Electric Ladyland. Featuring a vast crew of guest players, the epic blues Voodoo Child, and the plaintive mini-symphony Burning of the Midnight Lampas well as the hit single Crosstown Trafficit was the most far-reaching achievement of his brief recording career. You dont care what people say so much, he told Down Beat, you just go on and do what you want to do. Increasingly, this would not be as easy as Hendrix made it sound.

It was at this point that the unscrupulous Ed Chalpin sued Hendrixs management over his 1966 contract with the guitarist, disrupting his affairs for several years. Meanwhile, the enormous recording costs Hendrix had amassed making Electric Ladyland induced Chandler and comanager Mike Jeffreys to build a custom studioElectric Ladyland Studiosthat would be rented out when the guitarist wasnt using it. But this, too, cost a fortune, necessitating endless touring that resulted in extreme road fatigue. The Experience broke up, and Hendrix began working with bassist Cox again, also recruiting drummer Buddy Miles for a soul-rock trio he called Band of Gypsys.

Revamped the National Anthem

In 1969 Hendrix appeared at the famed Woodstock festival in New York state, where his performance of the Star-Spangled Bannercomplete with apocalyptic guitar noisecaptured the anguish of the Vietnam War era and became a legend and a vital component of every time-capsule summary of the period. As Living Colour guitarist and Black Rock Coalition founder Vernon Reid told Crosstown Traffic author Murray, At that moment, he became one of the greats, like Coltrane or [bop saxophone luminary Charlie] Parker or [woodwind innovator Eric] Dolphy. He plugged into something deep, something beyond good or bad playing. It was just there it is.

Various interested parties hoped to team Hendrix with trumpeter-bandleader-composer Miles Davis, one of the preeminent creative forces in post-bop jazz; though this never materialized, Hendrix did play with a number of musicians in Daviss circle and showed a marked interest in elements of what would come to be called fusion, an amalgam of jazz and rock. He also declared, in a late interview quoted by Murray, that he wanted a big band and expressed the desire for other musicians to play my stuff, saying, I want to be a good writer.

The Band of Gypsys recorded a live album and, of legal necessity, handed it over to Chalpin; it is the only document of their short-lived band dynamic, one that tantalizingly demonstrates how a different rhythm section affected Hendrixs guitar work. Cox and Mileswho, as black sidemen, symbolized to Hendrixs more literal-minded political advisors a welcome concession to the black militancy of the daydid something Redding and Mitchell hadnt: they grooved. Much of the funk rock and funk-metal that followed owes a huge debt to this corner of Hendrixs creativity. The scorching Machine Gun has been hailed by critics as a masterpiece.

But the trio was short-lived; soon Miles was out, Mitchell returned, and Hendrix recorded a number of tracks for what was to be perhaps the fullest realization of the sound he heard in his head: another double album, this one titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. All available evidence suggests it would have melded soul, jazz, psychedelia, hard rock, and a few styles as yet unimagined. Tragically, after a slew of dispirited performances and perpetual self-medication, Jimi Hendrix died of a sleeping-pill overdose before he could complete the ambitious work. He was buried in Seattle.

The Hendrix estate was mired in litigation for many years; Al Hendrix at last found an aggressive lawyer and in 1994after a protracted strugglelooked to regain control of much of his sons music. In the years after the guitarists death, hundreds of new Hendrix albums appeared, featuring everything from studio outtakes to pre-Experience club performances to rambling interviews. Consumers have gotten the shortest end of the stick, with a sizeable group of what rock industry consensus regards as the ultimate bottom-feeders profiting from these paltry and often grotesquely misrepresented scraps. Such exploitation, however, has scarcely tarnished Jimi Hendrixs shining legacy.

Bits and pieces of what would have been First Rays appeared on three of many posthumous releasesThe Cry of Love, the soundtrack to the meandering hippie film Rainbow Bridge, and 1995s Voodoo Soup, of which Vibes Joseph V. Tirella commented, The title is silly but apt, since this album is a delicious soup of sorts, a bouillabaisse of musical flavors. Of all his posthumous recordings, Voodoo Soup garnered the best general reviews. Entertainment Weekly queried, Another Hendrix hodgepodge? Yes The catch is that this one is as fluid and cohesive as a preconceived record, without a bad song in the bunch.

In less than four years, Hendrix had established himself as one of the most important figures in pop music history. His influence extends to virtually every corner of contemporary music, from funk to heavy metal to fusion to the harmolodic school of New York free jazz to alternative rock. Well into the 1990s, Hendrixs presence on the rock scene practically makes a myth of his physical absence: MCA Records released remastered versions of his classic albums on CD as well as a compilation of his blues pieces and his complete Woodstock set.

In 1992 Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The following year he received the Grammy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. And notable rock, rap, and blues artists contributed cover versions of his songs to the high-profile 1993 tribute album Stone Free. That same year Hendrix archivist Bill Nitopi published Cherokee Mist: The Lost Writings, an ensemble of various forms of personal memorabillia including Hendrixs unpublished writings such as letters to family and friends, never-before-seen photographs, and notes on unrecorded music. The book title was meant to pay homage to Hendrixs Native American heritage.

Hendrix mania even extended into mid-1990s cyberculture when the Jimi Hendrix Foundation created an Internet web site (www.wavenet.com/~jhendrix) for afficianados. Named after the classic Hendrix tune Room Full of Mirrors, the web site was characterized in Newsweek as part shrine, part fanzine [with] high-culture and low-culture perspectives on Hendrix. Considering the amount of unreleased Hendrix musicof varied quality and in the hands of those with varied integrityhe will likely remain as prolific posthumously as any new artist. Meanwhile, his groundbreaking, heartfelt body of work will certainly continue to inspire musicians and listeners with every new rising sun.

Selected discography

On Reprise, except where noted

Are You Experienced (includes Hey Joe, Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, and Third Stone from the Sun), 1967, reissued, MCA, 1993.

Axis: Bold as Love (includes Little Wing), 1967, reissued, MCA, 1993.

Smash Hits (includes Stone Free and Red House), 1968.

Electric Ladyland (includes Voodoo Child, Cross-town Traffic, and Burning of the Midnight Lamp), 1968, reissued, MCA, 1993.

Band of Gypsys (includes Machine Gun), Capitol, 1970; reissued, MCA, 1995.

Released posthumously

The Cry of Love, 1971.

Rainbow Bridge, 1971.

Hendrix in the West, 1972.

War Heroes, 1972.

Jimi Hendrix (film soundtrack), 1973.

Crash Landing, 1975.

Midnight Lightning, 1975.

The Essential Jimi Hendrix, Volume One, 1978.

The Essential Jimi Hendrix, Volume Two, 1979.

Nine to the Universe, 1980.

The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, 1982.

Kiss the Sky, 1985.

Jimi Plays Monterey, 1986.

Band of Gypsys 2, Capitol, 1986.

Live at Winterland, Rykodisc, 1987.

Radio One, Rykodisc, 1989.

Stages, MCA, 1992.

The Ultimate Experience, MCA, 1993.

Blues, MCA, 1994.

Woodstock, MCA, 1994.

Voodoo Soup, MCA, 1995.

With others

Otis Redding, Monterey Pop, 1970.

Woodstock (includes The Star-Spangled Banner), Cotillion, 1970.

Woodstock 2, Cotillion, 1971.

Tribute albums

If 6 Was 9A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, 1990.

Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, 1993.

Sources

Books

Murray, Charles Shaar, Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Rock N Roll Revolution, St. Martins, 1989.

Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard, 1991.

Shapiro, Harry, and Caesar Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy, St. Martins, 1991.

Periodicals

Billboard, December 14, 1968, p. 10; September 26, 1970, p. 3.

Down Beat, February 1994, pp. 3839.

Entertainment Weekly, April 21, 1995, p. 54.

Jet, January 31, 1994, p. 61.

Musician, February 1993, p. 44.

Newsweek, January 16,1995, p. 64; August 7, 1995, p. 10.

Q, July 1994, pp. 4649.

Rolling Stone, September 20, 1990, pp. 7578; February 6, 1992, pp. 4048, 94.

Vibe, May 1994; August 1995.

Simon Glickman

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Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) is perhaps the most innovative electric guitarist of all time, combining blues, hard rock, modern jazz, and soul into his own unmistakable sound.

In the few years between his emergence as a solo artist and his death from a barbiturate overdose at the height of his fame, Jimi Hendrix wrought a slew of radical changes on pop music. Arguably the most innovative electric guitarist of all time, he combined the raw passion of the blues, the sonic aggression of hard rock, the aural adventure of psychedelia and modern jazz, and the symphonic lyricism of progressive soul, melding these disparate inclinations into a style that, even when heard in fragments, remains unmistakably his own.

Had his instrumental prowess been his only contribution, Hendrix would remain a towering figure in modern music. But he was also a supremely gifted songwriter, as the myriad cover versions of his songs by such diverse artists as Eric Clapton, the Pretenders, Frank Zappa, Rickie Lee Jones, Living Colour, The Cure, jazz composer Gil Evans, and many others attest. When funk pioneer George Clinton was asked by a Rolling Stone interviewer how Hendrix had influenced Clinton's band Funkadelic, he responded, "He was it. He took noise to church."

At the time of his death, Hendrix was working desperately on an ambitious project that seemed designed to bridge a dazzling array of musical territories. Though he never completed that record, he did lay the groundwork for a range of bold stylistic hybrids, and he continues to influence those who hear his work. "Hendrix left an indelible, fiercely individual mark on popular music," wrote David Fricke in Rolling Stone, "accelerating rock's already dynamic rate of change in the late 1960s with his revolutionary synthesis of guitar violence, improvisational nerve, spacey melodic reveries and a confessional intensity born of the blues." Indeed, as one of the late musician's friends told the authors of the biography Electric Gypsy, Hendrix revealed, "I sacrifice part of my soul every time I play."

Raised by His Father

The man who would achieve fame as Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, in 1942. His father, Al—a gifted jazz dancer who worked at a number of jobs including landscape gardening—bore much of the responsibility of raising the boy and his brother, Leon, as did their grandmother and various family friends. This was due to the unreliability of Al's wife, Lucille, who drank excessively and would disappear for extended periods. Al Hendrix won custody of his sons and exercised as much discipline as he could, but the boys—young Johnny especially—worshipped their absentee mother; numerous biographers have hypothesized that in later years the guitarist looked to her as his muse. Al later changed his older son's name to James Marshall Hendrix.

Jimmy Hendrix wanted a guitar early on; before acquiring his first real instrument, he plucked a number of surrogates, including a broom and a one-stringed ukelele. Al at last procured a guitar for him, and the precocious 12-year-old restrung it upside down—as a left-hander, he was forced to turn the instrument in the opposite direction from how it is usually played, which left the low strings on the bottom unless he rearranged them—proceeding to teach himself blues songs from records by greats like B. B. King and Muddy Waters. The guitar rarely left his side and even lay beside him as he slept. By his mid-teens, Hendrix was playing blues and R&B with his band the Rocking Kings. He played behind his back, between his legs, and over his head—as had many blues guitarists before him. Thus he endeared himself to audiences, if not to all musicians.

It was therefore a shock to his father and friends when Hendrix joined the armed forces at age 17 and left his guitar behind. He volunteered for the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper and was soon jumping out of airplanes (he would later use his instrument to evoke the otherworldly sounds and sensations of freefall). Eventually he sent for his guitar and became the object of much derision and abuse from his peers, who considered Hendrix's extravagant devotion to the instrument freakish.

Performed on the "Chitlin Circuit"

An exception was a young private named Billy Cox. Himself an aspiring bassist with a taste for jazz as well as R&B, Cox overheard guitar music coming from inside a club on the camp that sounded, as he told Electric Gypsy authors Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek, "somewhere between [German classical composer Ludwig von] Beethoven and [blues icon] John Lee Hooker." He immediately suggested that he and Hendrix form a band; soon their quintet was entertaining troops all over the region. Eventually, though, Hendrix tired of army discipline and managed—with the help of a well-timed and over dramatized injury—to obtain a discharge. Cox got out two months later.

After a few unproductive months, the two musicians headed for Nashville, Tennessee, which was just gaining a national reputation for its recording scene. Their new band, the King Kasuals—a revamped version of their service combo—landed a regular gig at the El Morocco club. Hendrix rapidly established himself as one of the hottest guitarists in town. At the time, however, he had no confidence in his singing and was content to back R&B artists, among them Curtis Mayfield, whose soulful guitar playing combined rhythm and lead and strongly influenced Hendrix's later balladry.

Over the next few years, Hendrix logged time in several R&B road shows—on what came to be known, somewhat disparagingly, as the "Chitlin Circuit"—though he didn't last long with any one act; his wild hair and compelling stage presence often stole the thunder from bandleaders who expected their musicians to play their assigned parts and stay in the background. From the seminal rocker Little Richard, Hendrix lifted much of what would become his signature look as an artist. Richard admired the guitarist's playing but viewed his taste for the limelight as a threat. The Isley Brothers gave Hendrix a bit more freedom; he was allowed to stretch out onstage and contributed a fiery solo to their 1964 single "Testify." The Isley Brothers hit showcases the passion and budding virtuosity that would soon make Hendrix a sensation.

Hendrix then played with saxophonist King Curtis and later with friend Curtis Knight (cowriting and recording some sides with the latter that would be exploited after he achieved fame). In 1965 he signed—for a one-dollar advance—a record contract with Knight's manager and PPX Productions head Ed Chalpin, the first of many costly and ill-advised legal entanglements that characterized Hendrix's career. It was around this time that he formed his own group, Jimmy James & the Blue Flames (which included a future member of the psychedelic rock group Spirit), moved to New York, and played endless low-paying gigs at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. His increasingly daring guitar work would make itself known, however.

Gave "Experience" New Meaning

Linda Keith, then girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, was sufficiently impressed by Hendrix to recommend him to Chas Chandler, bassist for British rock sensations the Animals and an aspiring manager. Chandler was stunned by Hendrix and urged him to come to London. The road-weary Hendrix was justifiably skeptical, but Chandler turned out to be the real thing. Soon the guitarist was en route to the United Kingdom.

Chandler suggested changing the spelling of Hendrix's first name to Jimi, though the oft-cited assertion that he made this suggestion on the flight to London may be untrue. In any event, they touched down in September of 1966 and immediately put a band together with two British musicians, guitarist Noel Redding—who came to Chandler's office hoping to audition for the Animals but would, instead, be handed a bass for the first time—and jazz-influenced drummer John "Mitch" Mitchell, who won a coin toss to beat out his only competitor.

Mitchell's exuberant, round-the-kit playing combined the frenetic psychedelic blues attack of his most famous British peers with a post-bop virtuosity that recalled Elvin Jones, one-time skinsman for visionary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Many critics would later suggest that the Hendrix-Mitchell chemistry paralleled that between the two jazz players. Thus was born the Jimi Hendrix Experience. "Together, they complemented the rhythmic idiosyncrasies of Hendrix's songs and playing style with their own turbulent blend of hardy soul dynamics and breathtaking acid-jazz breakaways," wrote Rolling Stone's Fricke. "The sound was fluid enough for open-ended jamming yet free of excess instrumental baggage, tight and heavy in the hard-rock clutches."

Meanwhile, Hendrix had found his voice not only as a songwriter but as a singer. Both his vocalizing and lyrics were profoundly influenced by folk-rock trailblazer Bob Dylan, whose unpretty plainsong voice and personal, surrealistic writing inspired Hendrix to cover his work—witness the rocking hit version of "All Along the Watchtower"— and to emulate it.

The Experience coalesced in a whirlwind couple of weeks, playing its debut gig in Paris opening for French pop star Johnny Hallyday at the Paris Olympia. Having signed with Track Records, they commenced recording their debut album the following month and by December had released their first single, a cover version of the folk-rock standard "Hey Joe." Hendrix's relaxed take on this often frantically rendered song added menace to the violent imagery of the lyrics and lent the title character's flight from justice considerable heft with concise, emotional bursts of lead guitar.

"Hey Joe" became a hit, and Hendrix proceeded to terrify London's biggest rock stars with his electrifying stage show. "It's the most psychedelic experience I ever had, going to see Hendrix play," guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who told Charles Shaar Murray, author of Crosstown Traffic. "When he started to play, something changed: colours changed, everything changed." Townshend—who claims never to have been a heavy user of psychedelic substances—recalled "flames and water dripping out of the ends of his hands." Eric Clapton, guitar "God" of rock until Hendrix's arrival, invited the young American onstage to play with his group Cream; soon "God" slunk offstage and was found in his dressing room with his head in his hands. Cream later wrote their psychedelic riff-rock smash "Sunshine of Your Love" in tribute to the American firebrand; he eventually adopted it into his live set without knowing he'd inspired it.

Unlike Townshend, Hendrix had a special fondness for hallucinogens like LSD and was also an enthusiastic marijuana smoker. In addition, scores of women flocked to him, and his "Wild Man of Borneo" reputation made him seem—to those who didn't know him—like some kind of omnivorous Yank tornado. Yet he is almost universally remembered as a shy, diffident person, occasionally explosive but largely gentle and naive; he was in no way prepared for the stormy sea of fame or the cynical manipulations of the music business. As Shapiro and Glebbeek pointed out in Electric Gypsy, he was dashed between the extremes of sporadic hero worship and institutional racism. "Feted as the greatest rock guitarist in the world, acclaimed as a Dionysian superstud and refused service at the tattiest redneck lunch counters—Jimi Hendrix was treated as superhuman and subhuman, but rarely just human," the authors attest. Even so, he seemed to care little about issues of color and was especially frustrated by the suggestion that he played "white music" or "black music."

Stirred Up a "Purple Haze"

The Experience's debut album, Are You Experienced?—released in the United States on the Reprise label—was a watershed in popular music, only kept from the top chart position by one of the few albums that arguably exceeds it in importance: the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Hendrix produced a psychedelic rock anthem in the disoriented "Purple Haze," elegiac soul with the ballad "The Wind Cries Mary," R&B brimstone with "Fire," and proto-jazz rock with "Third Stone from the Sun." The U.K. version of the record included the signature Hendrix blues "Red House," released the following year in the United States on a singles collection. Are You Experienced? was an epochal debut, full of innovative studio effects and Hendrix's advanced use of feedback and tremolo. Then, in 1967, the band took the landmark Monterey Pop Festival by storm; Hendrix's ceremonial burning of his guitar—a highly theatrical routine that he somehow invested with the solemnity of a ritual sacrifice—left audiences stunned and appropriately worshipful.

Hendrix returned to the United States a hero. Crowds swarmed to watch this "wild man" play with his teeth, play behind his head, make relatively explicit love to—and, with any luck, torch—his Fender Stratocaster, and otherwise update the blues showman tradition with revolutionary fervor. What sometimes got lost in this impressive performance, to Hendrix's eternal dismay, was the music.

In the meantime, Chas Chandler made the best of the Experience's disastrous, abortive tour with wholesome TV popsters the Monkees by starting a rumor that the ultraconservative Daughters of the American Revolution had forced out the group. When Hendrix wasn't playing concerts or engaging in marathon studio sessions, he could invariably be found jamming at local clubs with anyone and everyone.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's follow-up album, Axis: Bold as Love, demonstrated Hendrix's balladry and general songcraft to even greater effect, particularly on "Little Wing," which has been covered numerous times. Yet Hendrix was deeply dissatisfied by the way his albums had been cut and mixed and by a number of other factors. The trio format limited him—Redding played the bass parts Hendrix wrote but added little spice to the band dynamic—and he quickly tired of the theatrics audiences had come to expect. When he neglected to play the flashy guitar hero, crowds often grew restless, filling him with frustration and even contempt.

Hendrix longed to expand his musical range and to this end began work on the one album over which he exercised complete control, the sprawling double-length Electric Ladyland. Featuring a vast crew of guest players, the epic blues "Voodoo Child," and the plaintive mini-symphony "Burning of the Midnight Lamp"—as well as the hit single "Crosstown Traffic"—it was the most far-reaching achievement of his brief recording career. "You don't care what people say so much," he told Down Beat, "you just go on and do what you want to do." Increasingly, this would not be as easy as Hendrix made it sound.

It was at this point that the unscrupulous Ed Chalpin sued Hendrix's management over his 1966 contract with the guitarist, disrupting his affairs for several years. Meanwhile, the enormous recording costs Hendrix had amassed making Electric Ladyland induced Chandler and comanager Mike Jeffreys to build a custom studio—Electric Ladyland Studios—that would be rented out when the guitarist wasn't using it. But this, too, cost a fortune, necessitating endless touring that resulted in extreme road fatigue. The Experience broke up, and Hendrix began working with bassist Cox again, also recruiting drummer Buddy Miles for a soul-rock trio he called Band of Gypsys.

Revamped the National Anthem

In 1969 Hendrix appeared at the famed Woodstock festival in New York state, where his performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner"—complete with apocalyptic guitar noise—captured the anguish of the Vietnam War era and became a legend and a vital component of every time-capsule summary of the period. As Living Colour guitarist and Black Rock Coalition founder Vernon Reid told Cross-town Traffic author Murray, "At that moment, he became one of the greats, like Coltrane or [bop saxophone luminary Charlie] Parker or [woodwind innovator Eric] Dolphy. He plugged into something deep, something beyond good or bad playing. It was just 'there it is."'

Various interested parties hoped to team Hendrix with trumpeter-bandleader-composer Miles Davis, one of the preeminent creative forces in post-bop jazz; though this never materialized, Hendrix did play with a number of musicians in Davis's circle and showed a marked interest in elements of what would come to be called "fusion," an amalgam of jazz and rock. He also declared, in a late interview quoted by Murray, that he wanted a "big band" and expressed the desire for "other musicians to play my stuff," saying, "I want to be a good writer."

The Band of Gypsys recorded a live album and, of legal necessity, handed it over to Chalpin; it is the only document of their short-lived band dynamic, one that tantalizingly demonstrates how a different rhythm section affected Hendrix's guitar work. Cox and Miles—who, as black sidemen, symbolized to Hendrix's more literal-minded political advisors a welcome concession to the black militancy of the day—did something Redding and Mitchell hadn't: they grooved. Much of the funk-rock and funk-metal that followed owes a huge debt to this corner of Hendrix's creativity. The scorching "Machine Gun" has been hailed by critics as a masterpiece.

But the trio was short-lived; soon Miles was out, Mitchell returned, and Hendrix recorded a number of tracks for what was to be perhaps the fullest realization of the sound he heard in his head: another double album, this one titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. All available evidence suggests it would have melded soul, jazz, psychedelia, hard rock, and a few styles as yet unimagined. Tragically, after a slew of dispirited performances and perpetual self-medication, Jimi Hendrix died of a sleeping-pill overdose on September 18, 1970, before he could complete the ambitious work. He was buried in Seattle.

The Hendrix estate was mired in litigation for many years; Al Hendrix at last found an aggressive lawyer and in 1994—after a protracted struggle—looked to regain control of much of his son's music. In the years after the guitarist's death, hundreds of "new Hendrix albums" appeared, featuring everything from studio outtakes to pre-Experience club performances to rambling interviews. Consumers have gotten the shortest end of the stick, with a sizeable group of what rock industry consensus regards as the ultimate bottom-feeders profiting from these paltry and often grotesquely misrepresented scraps. Such exploitation, however, has scarcely tarnished Jimi Hendrix's shining legacy.

Bits and pieces of what would have been First Rays appeared on three of many posthumous releases—The Cry of Love, the soundtrack to the meandering hippie film Rainbow Bridge, and 1995's Voodoo Soup, of which Vibe's Joseph V. Tirella commented, "The title is silly but apt, since this album is a delicious soup of sorts, a bouillabaisse of musical flavors." Of all his posthumous recordings, Voodoo Soup garnered the best general reviews. Entertainment Weekly queried, "Another Hendrix hodgepodge? Yes … The catch is that this one … is as fluid and cohesive as a preconceived record, without a bad song in the bunch."

In less than four years, Hendrix had established himself as one of the most important figures in pop music history. His influence extends to virtually every corner of contemporary music, from funk to heavy metal to fusion to the "harmolodic" school of New York free jazz to alternative rock. Well into the 1990s, Hendrix's presence on the rock scene practically makes a myth of his physical absence: MCA Records released remastered versions of his classic albums on CD as well as a compilation of his blues pieces and his complete Woodstock set.

In 1992 Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The following year he received the Grammy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. And notable rock, rap, and blues artists contributed cover versions of his songs to the high-profile 1993 tribute album Stone Free. That same year Hendrix archivist Bill Nitopi published Cherokee Mist: The Lost Writings, an ensemble of various forms of personal memorabilia including Hendrix's unpublished writings such as letters to family and friends, "never-before-seen" photographs, and notes on unrecorded music. The book title was meant to pay homage to Hendrix's Native American heritage.

Hendrix mania even extended into mid-1990s cyber culture when the Jimi Hendrix Foundation created an Internet web site (http://www.wavenet.com/~jhendrix) for aficionados. Named after the classic Hendrix tune "Room Full of Mirrors," the web site was characterized in Newsweek as "part shrine, part fanzine … [with] high-culture and low-culture perspectives on Hendrix." Considering the amount of unreleased Hendrix music—of varied quality and in the hands of those with varied integrity—he will likely remain as prolific posthumously as any new artist. Meanwhile, his groundbreaking, heartfelt body of work will certainly continue to inspire musicians and listeners with every new rising sun.

Further Reading

Murray, Charles Shaar, Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Rock 'N' Roll Revolution, St. Martin's, 1989.

Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard, 1991.

Shapiro, Harry, and Caesar Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy, St. Martin's, 1991.

Billboard, December 14, 1968, p. 10; September 26, 1970, p. 3.

Down Beat, February 1994, pp. 38-39.

Entertainment Weekly, April 21, 1995, p. 54.

Jet, January 31, 1994, p. 61.

Musician, February 1993, p. 44.

Newsweek, January 16, 1995, p. 64; August 7, 1995, p. 10.

Q, July 1994, pp. 46-49.

Rolling Stone, September 20, 1990, pp. 75-78; February 6, 1992, pp. 40-48, 94.

Vibe, May 1994; August 1995. □

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Hendrix, Jimi

Jimi Hendrix

Born: November 27, 1942
Seattle, Washington
Died: September 18, 1970
London, England

African American musician, songwriter, and guitarist

Jimi Hendrix was one of the most original electric guitarists of all time, combining blues, hard rock, modern jazz, and soul into his own unmistakable sound. He was also a gifted songwriter.

Raised by his father

Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942, the son of Al Hendrix and Lucille Jeter. His fathera gifted jazz dancer who worked at a number of jobs, including landscape gardeningbore much of the responsibility of raising the boy and his brother, Leon, as did their grandmother and various family friends. This was due to the unreliability of Lucille, who drank excessively and who would disappear for extended periods. Al Hendrix changed his son's name to James Marshall Hendrix in 1946. Al and Lucille divorced in 1951; Al Hendrix won custody of his sons and exercised as much discipline as he could, but the boysyoung Jimi especiallyworshipped their absentee mother.

Jimi Hendrix wanted a guitar early on. Before acquiring his first real instrument, he "played" guitar on a broom and on a one-stringed ukulele. At last Al got his son a guitar, and the twelve-year-old Jimi began to teach himself to play. Jimi restrung the guitar upside downas a left-hander, he was forced to turn the instrument in the opposite direction from how it is usually played, which left the strings at the bottom unless he rearranged them. He learned blues songs from records by greats like B. B. King (1925) and Muddy Waters (19151983). The guitar rarely left Jimi's side, even as he slept. By his mid-teens, Hendrix had formed a band called the Rocking Kings. He played behind his back, between his legs, and over his headas had many blues guitarists before him. Thus he became a favorite to audiences, if not to all musicians.

Reputation grows

After dropping out of Garfield High School in Seattle, Hendrix joined the army at age seventeen to avoid a jail sentence for riding in a stolen car. He volunteered as a para-trooper (a person who jumps from planes using a parachute) and was soon jumping out of airplanes. Eventually he sent for his guitar and continued playing whenever he could. He met another soldier, bass player Billy Cox, with whom he formed a band that entertained troops all over the region. After leaving the army, the two friends formed the King Kasuals and began playing regularly at a club in Nashville, Tennessee. Hendrix became known as the hottest guitarist in town. At the time he lacked confidence in his singing and was content to back other artists.

Over the next few years Hendrix toured with several different bands, often stealing attention away from bandleaders who expected him to stay in the background. Hendrix's looks and on-stage behavior were influenced by the early rocker Little Richard (1932). Hendrix played with the Isley Brothers, with saxophonist King Curtis, and later with friend Curtis Knight. In 1965 he signed a contract with Knight's manager, Ed Chalpin, receiving an advance of one dollar. He then formed his own group, Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, and moved to New York.

Jimi Hendrix Experience

In September 1966 Hendrix was brought to London, England, by Chas Chandler, a member of the rock group the Animals who wanted to be a manager. Chandler suggested changing the spelling of Hendrix's first name to Jimi and helped him form the Jimi Hendrix Experience with bass player Noel Redding and drummer John "Mitch" Mitchell. Recording began the following month. By December the Experience had released its first hit single, "Hey Joe." Hendrix amazed even London's biggest rock stars with his electrifying stage show. He once said, "I sacrifice part of my soul every time I play."

The Experience's first album, Are You Experienced?, was a huge success. Back in the United States, crowds were stunned by Hendrix's performances, which included the burning of his guitar. The band's next album, Axis: Bold as Love, showed Hendrix's growth as a songwriter, but he was unhappy with the way it sounded. He was also becoming tired of audiences who expected a "wild man" act. Hendrix tried to expand his musical range on Electric Ladyland, an album he had complete control over, and that was the greatest achievement of his brief recording career.

Management problems

At this point Ed Chalpin sued Hendrix over his contract with the guitarist, causing problems for several years. Hendrix's managers decided to build Electric Ladyland Studios, hoping to save money on recording costs. To help pay for the studio, Hendrix was forced into endless touring, which caused the Experience to break up. Hendrix then formed Band of Gypsys with his old friend Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. In 1969 Hendrix's famous performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the Woodstock festival in New York captured the anguish of the Vietnam War era (195775; a war in which the United States aided South Vietnam in their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to stop a takeover by Communist North Vietnam).

Band of Gypsys recorded only a live album before drummer Miles left. Mitchell returned, and Hendrix began recording tracks for a new album, to be titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Before it was finished, Hendrix died of an overdose of sleeping pills on September 18, 1970.

Jimi Hendrix was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. The following year he received the Grammy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. Many rock, rap, and blues artists contributed versions of his songs to the 1993 tribute album Stone Free. In 1999 Al Hendrix published My Son Jimi, a biography of his son's family life.

For More Information

Black, Johnny. Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999.

Hendrix, James A. My Son Jimi. Edited by Jas Obrecht. Seattle: A1Jas Enterprises, 1999.

Murray, Charles Shaar. Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Rock 'n' Roll Revolution. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.

Shapiro, Harry, and Caesar Glebbeek. Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy. New York: St. Martin's, 1991.

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Hendrix, Jimi

Jimi Hendrix (James Marshall Hendrix), 1942–70, African-American rock guitarist, b. Seattle, Wash. Hendrix, in his short musical career, was known for an innovative and extremely influential guitar style that involved the explosive, yet often sensitively nuanced, use of feedback, distortion, and other electronically manipulated sound effects. His recordings include the albums Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967), and Electric Ladyland (1968); his biggest hit single was the psychedelic "Purple Haze" (1967). He toured with his bands The Experience (1967–69) and Band of Gypsys (1969–70) and appeared at both the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock.

See his Starting at Zero: His Own Story (2013), assembled by A. Douglas and P. Neal; biographies by C. R. Cross (2005), S. Lawrence (2005), and S. Roby and B. Schreiber (2010).

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Hendrix, Jimi

Hendrix, Jimi ( James Marshall) (1942–70) US rock guitarist, songwriter and singer. Hendrix's improvised guitar solos have influenced generations of rock and jazz musicians. His debut album was Are You Experienced? (1967). His band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, played live at Woodstock (1970). Other albums include Band of Gypsies (1970).

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Hendrix, Jimi

Jimi Hendrix

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Without a doubt, Jimi Hendrix will be remembered as the most innovative electric guitarist of all time. In a professional career that lasted less than a decade, he created music that still sounds as fresh and breathtaking today as it did when he took the pop world by storm in 1967. As producer Alan Douglas told Guitar World, Hendrix essentially established the school and nobodys graduated from the school yet. Consequently, he is the only reference.

Hendrix picked up the guitar at age eleven and was soon playing with local rock groups as a teenager in his hometown of Seattle, Washington. He left school at sixteen and, with the permission of his father, joined the Army a year later as a paratrooper. But that career ended after he was injured on his twenty-sixth jump, forcing him to be discharged. While in the service he befriended bassist Billy Cox and the two jammed together and swapped guitar licks. Hendrix absorbed the music of the blues masters like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Albert and B.B. King, and Lightnin Hopkins, and even went so far as to sleep with his guitar because he had heard that his idols had done the same. (The blues influence was very deep; check out his song Red House).

Once out of the Army he began concentrating on music and hit the chitlin circuit as a backing guitarist for a host of popular rock and rhythm and blues artists: Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight, Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, King Curtis, and James Brown. Hendrix also teamed with Cox in the King Kasuals, providing support for performers including Slim Harpo and Nappy Brown. During this period, from around 1962-1964, he began incorporating trademark crowd-pleasers (playing the guitar with his teeth, behind his back, and between his legs) and could just as easily peel off a Charlie Christian-styled jazz lick, a scorching rocker, or a low-down blues.

Hendrix hit New York in 1964, changing his name to Jimmy James and fronting his own band called the Blue Flames. Fellow guitarist John Hammond, Jr., heard them playing at a dingy little club called the Cafe Wa in Greenwich Village and asked Hendrix to join his group, but their eventual collaboration at the nearby Cafe Au Go Go lasted only a few weeks. I knew there was no way he was going to be my guitar player, Hammond told Guitar Player. He was his own star. Othersincluding the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Animalscaught wind of the new hot-shot guitarist who made colleagues feel embarrassed that they had even picked up the instrument.

Chas Chandler (former Animals bassist) convinced Hendrix to come back with him to London, where the music scene was really taking off. On the promise that

For the Record

Full name, James Marshall Hendrix; born November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Wash.; died from suffocation as a result of acute barbiturate intoxication, September 18, 1970, in London, England; son of James Allen (a landscaper) and Lucille Hendrix. Education: Attended Garfield High School, Seattle, Wash., to age 16. Military service: U.S. Army, 1959-c. 1961; served with 101st Airborne Division.

Began playing guitar at age 11; played with various local rock bands during while attending high school; following discharge from U.S. Army, performed as touring backing guitarist for numerous rock and rhythm and blues artists, including Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight, Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, King Curtis, and James Brown, c. 1962-64; performed as Jimmy James with band the Blue Flames, in New York City, 1964; moved to London, England and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience (with guitarist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell), c. 1967, group released first record, 1967, dissolved, June 29, 1969; solo performer, 1969-70.

Awards: Named pop musician of the year by Melody Maker magazine, 1967 and 1968; selected Billboard artist of the year, 1968; Rolling Stone magazines performer of the year and rock and roll album of the year, 1968; presented key to the city of Seattle, 1968; named Playboy magazines artist of the year, 1969; elected to down beat magazines Readers Poll Hall of Fame, 1970; named Guitar Player magazines rock guitarist of the year, 1970, and presented the magazines lifetime achievement award, 1983.

he would get to meet Eric Clapton, Hendrix agreed and headed overseas to search for the proper backup band. The rhythm section auditions produced Mitch Mitchell, a free-form jazz flavored drummer, and Noel Redding, a guitarist who switched to bass for the job. In just three weeks the Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed and playing live. Managers Chandler and Michael Jeffrey had the trio frizz their hair and dress as outlandishly as possible to create a stir as their first single, Hey Joe, went all the way to Number 6 on the U.K. charts in 1967. An appearance on the British television show Ready, Steady Go followed before their next single, Purple Haze, set the world on its ear with Hendrixs distorted guitar assault.

Beatle Paul McCartney persuaded Monterey Pop Festival officials to book Hendrix despite the fact his first album had not even been released yet. His performance transformed the twenty-four-year-old into a immediate superstar. While noted for being shy and unassuming offstage, Hendrixs showmanship floored the Monterey audience as he pulled out all the stops following the Whos thunderous set and finalized the gig by burning his guitar onstage. Amazingly (or foolishly), the Jimi Hendrix Experience was then booked as the opening act for the Monkees 1967 U.S. tour but, as the two acts appealed to totally different audiences, it was a short-lived venture. Supposedly, Hendrixs management team concocted a false story that the Daughters of the American Revolution had Hendrix banned. Regardless, his debut LP, Are You Experienced?, was soon commanding listeners attention with an exciting new sound: The Wind Cries Mary, Third Stone From the Sun, Fire, Foxy Lady, the two previously releases singles, and five more tunes. Guitar Players Jas Obrecht called it the most revolutionary debut album in rock guitar history.

Hendrix had literally reinvented the electric guitars potential and became its first true innovator since Chuck Berry. Although earlier in his career Hendrix could play ambidextrously, he eventually settled on using a right-handed Fender Statocaster restrung upside down and played left-handed. He manipulated the tone and volume controls (which were now on top) to make unique effects and became the first to fully realize the vibrato arms usefullness by creating dive-bombing shrieks and bending full chords. He custom shaped the bar himself in order to obtain a three-step variation instead of the stock bars one step. His rapid-fire flicking of the toggle switch produced a bullet-spitting rattle (Machine Gun) while his huge hands allowed for extreme reaches and funky chordings.

Compared to contemporary guitarists, Hendrixs use of special electronic effects seems very limited. His basic setup included a Univibe (to simulate a rotating speaker), a wah-wah, and a fuzz-box. They key, however, was to channel this through a stack of screaming Marshall amplifiers with the volume wide open. Hendrix harnessed the feedback whereas others had barely been able to control it. His ability to play clean leads and distored rhythm simultaneously is still a mystery. Like John Coltrane on the tenor sax, Hendrix expanded the boundaries of his instrument like no one before or since.

In 1968 Chandler quit and Jeffrey became sole manager of the Experience, an arrangement which troubled Hendrix until his death (almost twenty years later, Hendrixs estate is still a financial nightmare). He released his second LP, Axis: Bold as Love, which contained more of his magical sounds on tunes like Little Wing, If 6 Was 9, Castles Made of Sand, and EXP. His third album, the double set Electric Ladyland, was released just nine months later and displayed Hendrixs flair for studio tricks and included guest musicians that included Steve Winwood and Jack Cassidy.

Larry Coryell told Guitar World that Hendrix had a Christ-like appeal; he was more than just a guitar player, he was a personality. As his first three LPs went gold, Hendrix began getting caught up in the superstar trappings. The band became consumed by drinking, pill-popping, and dope smoking while Hendrixs voracious sexual appetite was fueled by a constant barrage of hangers-on. In a way, Jimis ego fed off it; but in the end the necessity and constant pressure to be Jimi Hendrix took much more out of him, Reddi-ng stated in Musician. Everyone took, took, took from Jimi. The only things they gave were drugs. By mid-1969 the Experience had disintegrated. They played their last show on June 29th at the Denver Pop Festival, the same month their Smash Hits LP was released (featuring their first and only Top 20 single, All Along the Watchtower).

In August of 1969 Hendrix played the Woodstock Festival with an assemblage of fellow musicians and created a triumph of improvisation on The Star Spangled Banner, complete with exploding bombs and electronic warfare. Pressured by black militant groups, but wanting no part of politics, Hendrix formed the all-black Band of Gypsys with former Army pal Bill Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. Although the group lasted only a few months, a live performance was captured on the Band of Gypsys LP. Hendrix went next with the lineup of Cox and Mitchell for the Isle of Wight Festival and his final performance at the Isle of Fehmarn in West Germany on September 6, 1970. Twelve days later Hendrix died after inhaling his own vomit caused by barbiturate intoxication.

Debates continue as to whether or not Hendrix was washed up musically just prior to his death. Some say that he could not perform at all, which is not surprising given his physical state. Others point out that he was experiencing a sort of musical rebirth and was very excited about future projects which included moving towards jazz and avant garde areas. He had also expressed an interest in utilizing big-band musicians and classical concepts in addition to learning music theory. An idea of where Hendrix was headed can be heard on Nine To The Universe, released in 1980 and filled with some very unique studio jams.

Since 1974 producer Alan Douglas has been in charge of releasing all posthumous Hendrix material. However, his first two efforts, Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning, received the outrage of purists who were upset that Douglas had stripped the recordings of everything but Hendrixs guitar and then hired studio musicians to play the missing parts over. Even so, with the general public so hungry for Hendrixs genius, Crash Landing became a Top Ten LP. After a few more less than satisfactory LPs, Douglas finally came across with two fine compact disc versions of vintage Hendrix, Live at Winterland and Radio One. But, with dozens of bootleg LPs available, Hendrix will also be remembered as one of the most ripped-off and artistically abused artists of all time.

The aura of Hendrix still lives: guitarists like Robin Trower and Stevie Ray Vaughan pay their respects to the master while turning on new generations to his music. Others, like Randy Hansens Machine Gun, go so far as to try and recreate Hendrixs image and sound note-for-note, but the aping seems futile, as some of the material just cannot be reproduced even today. A film biography has also been in the works for some time but finding an actor to fill the lead is proving troublesome.

Speculation exists as to what Jimi Hendrix would be playing were he still alive. Sadly, the best answer to that question probably came from the late Roy Buchanan in Rolling Stone, I wasnt surprised at all when Hendrix died. You knew he was going to die just by listening to his music. It was all there, he had done it [all] and he almost had to die to finalize it.

Selected discography

Are You Experienced?, Reprise, 1967.

Axis: Bold As Love, Reprise, 1968.

Electric Ladyland, Reprise, 1968.

Smash Hits, Reprise, 1969.

Band of Gypsys, Capitol, 1970.

Otis Redding/Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey, Reprise, 1970.

Released posthumously

The Cry of Love, Reprise, 1971.

Rainbow Bridge, Reprise, 1971.

Hendrix in the West, Reprise, 1972.

War Heroes, Reprise, 1972.

Sound Track Recording From the Film Jimi Hendrix, Reprise, 1973.

Crash Landing, Reprise, 1975.

Midnight Landing, Reprise, 1975.

The Essential Jimi Hendrix, Reprise, 1978.

The Essential Jimi Hendrix, Volume Two, Reprise, 1979.

Nine to the Universe, Reprise, 1980.

The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Reprise, 1982.

Kiss the Sky, Reprise, 1985.

Band of Gypsys 2, Capitol, 1986.

Jimi Plays Monterey, Reprise, 1986.

Live at Winterland, Rykodisc, 1987.

Radio One, Rykodisc, 1988.

Sources

Books

Christgau, Robert, Christgaus Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.

Dalton, David, and Lenny Kaye, Rock 100, Grosset & Dunlap,1977.

Evans, Mary, and Tom Evans, Guitars, From the Renaissance to Rock, Facts on File, 1977.

Harris, Sheldon, Blues Whos Who, Da Capo, 1979.

Henderson, David, Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky/The Life of Jimi Hendrix, Bantam, 1978.

Hopkins, Jerry, Hit and Run: The Jimi Hendrix Story, Perigree/Putnam, 1983.

Knight, Curtis, Jimi, Praeger, 1974.

Kozinn, Allan, Pete Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar: The History, The Music, The Players, Quill, 1984.

The Illustrated History of Rock, compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, Harmony, 1977.

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, edited by Jim Miller, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1976.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh with John Swenson, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.

Sampson, Victor, Hendrix, Proteus, 1984.

Welch, Chris, Hendrix, Delilah/Putnam, 1978.

Periodicals

Guitar Player, September, 1975; June, 1980; November, 1982; June, 1983; January, 1987; June, 1987; February, 1989; May, 1989.

Guitar World, September, 1985; March, 1988.

Musician, August, 1986; September, 1986.

Rolling Stone, December 2, 1976; November 16, 1978.

Calen D. Stone

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