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Jimi Hendrix exploded into the modern world of music in the 1960s and electrified it with his wild playing. In his short career, he became a legend. There was nobody like Hendrix who could burn the house down. During the first Monterey Pop Festival in California, Hendrix lit his guitar in flames . The act made him popular. However, it was not the flaming stunts that set Hendrix apart from other guitarists. Hendrix was a something of a miracle when it came to music. In all the history of rock music, Hendrix was a genius, a left-handed guitarist who insisted on playing the right-handed instrument.
Usually strapped in a Fender Stratocaster, Hendrix held in upside down with the controls and the tremolo arm at the top of the body. He was also instrumental in making music louder, using amplifier, creating an electrified sound with a character of its own. Brimming with intelligence and superbly styles and influences, Hendrix is seen as one of the greatest guitarists in rock music. With his band- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix unleashed some milestone albums: Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold as Love . See images below.
Aside from reaping accolades in his lifetime, Hendrix had also been given several posthumous awards, such as his induction into the U. S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 . He was also the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, the cultural iconic magazine Rolling Stone tagged Hendrix as the top guitarist in its list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time . Hendrix uncorked original sounds and music whose impact is still relevant thirty-nine year after his death. Born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle to James “Al” Hendrix, a U. S. Army and 17 year-old Lucille Jeter, Hendrix was initially named Johnny Allen Hendrix .
Four years later, when his father was released from the Army, he took main responsibility for raising his son, changing his name to James Marshall Hendrix . As his parents divorced, the young Hendrix grew up to be shy and sensitive boy. As a teenager, perhaps as a result of poverty and his feeling of neglect which stemmed from his parents’ divorce, he turned to music as means to escape. His interest was R & B in particular . He spent a great amount of time listening to records of Muddy Waters . While the 1950s were marked with prosperity among Americans, it was also a period wherein civil rights began to take shape.
Poverty and discrimination pervaded the country and Hendrix, as a young African Americans then, probably felt the heat and leaned on to music to shake off the blues. In 1959, Al Hendrix gave his son a SuproOzark 1560, his first electric guitar . A year later, he joined the Rocket Kings . How he learned the guitar was not known; he probably trained himself through copying others while listening to records. He spent a few years as a paratrooper after which left to pursue music . Starting out as a back-up musician, Hendrix played for R & B artists such as Little Richard, the Isley Brothers and Sam Cooke .
He initially formed a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames . But music crossed so thickly through Hendrix’ veins that he wanted to inject something new. Clearly, the man was distinct and original. His journey brought him to London where psychedelic mania was starting to boom . There, Hendrix changed the spelling of his name to “Jimi” and together with two English musicians- Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass, formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience . The Jimi Hendrix sound was born. Are You Experienced? , the first album of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, was an innovation.
It was, and still is, one of the most essential albums in rock history. With the release of the album, the world saw the emergence of Hendrix’ legendary guitar distortion, the most original sound in music and hands down, the best guitar work on any album. Purple Haze captured the rock sound of the times. The album was released at a time when the youth culture had a distinct form of expression and consciousness. It was sometimes known as counterculture . It was a period where music, especially rock music, gravitated more towards life and society more than any other element.
Buoyed by disillusionments in society, the civil rights demonstrations and the Vietnam War, music during the 60s served as a liberating force especially for young people and Hendrix was one of the main forces. After receiving overwhelming success in England and Europe, the Jimi Hendrix Experience moved on to the U. S. , where Hendrix’s iconic guitar burning and intense guitar artistry during the Monterey Pop Festival etched him in the history of rock music. If Are You Experienced? unleashed the intensity of Hendrix as a guitarist, Axis: Bold as Love showed his other side: that of being a songwriter.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued to rock the music world. Hendrix, a perfectionist, continued to challenge himself, and formed a new band called Gypsy Sun and Rainbows . His rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 was the biggest draw . Hendrix continued to set the audience and the press on the edge. However, his success was cut short with his death in 1970 at the age of 27 . Aside from his musical brilliance which introduced effects as the wah-wah and the guitar distortion, Hendrix was also known for his unique fashion statement.
With a Bob Dylan hairstyle, Hendrix wore scarves, brooches, bangles, and psychedelic patterned clothes. Whether it was done to be a foil for his playing or accentuate it more, Hendrix was a standout. Since this was the 60s where upheavals and rebellion were commonplace, it is widely known that Hendrix also experimented with drugs. After all, was the drug culture, people were hippies and rock groups at that time were closely associated with drugs, particularly with LSD . However, this is not is not to condone drug use. It is just the way it was.
There is nothing else to be done simply because it already happened. But there was more to Hendrix than his drug use. In his brief career, Hendrix was able to revolutionize rock and roll. He was the one who fulfilled the sounds that could be made with an amplified instrument. His songs were original, his music was beyond words. He touched not just rock music, but also influenced funk rock and even hip hop. There are many rock guitarists now that aspire to be like Hendrix. His searing guitar artistry is also immortalized in the popular video game Guitar Hero World Tour.
Now, even people who had not witnessed the Hendrix magic may be able to live out their dreams even on video games. As Townshend wrote in his Rolling Stone article that named Hendrix as the top guitarist of all times, “ There was a sense of wanting to possess him and wanting to be a part of him, to know how he did what he did because he was so powerfully affecting .
Davidson, James West and others. Nation of Nations A Narrative History of the American Republic 3rd ed. USA: McGraw-Hill, 1998. Jordan, Winthrop and Leon Litwack. The United States Combined Edition 7th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1991. https://www.rockhall.com/