Jimi Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942. Upon Hendrix’s debut in music, not only was the new genre of psychedelic guitar born but the music world was forever marked with Hendrix’s unusual, yet overly effective playing techniques.
Jimi was known for offering the wildest shows, sometimes playing his guitar with his teeth, or behind his back. Even though he owned several left-handed guitars, Hendrix played regular, right-handed guitars that were re-strung from the regular AEDGBE to a more leftie-friendly EBGDEA.
Jimi Hendrix is claimed to have popularized the use of the wah-wah pedal upon being introduced to it by Frank Zappa in the early mid 60’s. Later in his career the wah-wah sound became a part of Jimi’s guitar signature. The trademark Hendrix sound was boosted by overdriven amps of high-gain and high-treble, as well as classic high bends that almost jumped out of his songs. Hendrix also changed minds about the reputation of feedback, using this generally unwanted effect to add that wild dreaminess so prominent in his performances.
Jimi’s guitar abilities mainly consisted of untamed electric bluesy riffs and a left-handed faculty that captured the planet’s attention. Hendrix’s talent didn’t remain unnoticed for very long. He was respected and praised by many guitarists shortly after his debut in music, with influences of blues and rock greats like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Albert King and even Elvis Presley. It wasn’t long until Jimi (and his skill) fit right in to the top class of musicians that were then presided by Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Jeff Beck.
Hendrix’s beginnings date back to the early 60’s, where he began playing with army friend Billy Cox in Fort Campbell, KT where stationed. He tried his luck out in the South by participating in various bands: from his first ‘The Velvetones”, to ‘Rocking Kings’ and the ‘King Casuals’. Jimi struggled to subsist but acquired the blues roots and experience that framed his inherent guitar skills.
Confident to climb up the music ladder, Hendrix moved to New York in 1964. Shortly he was part of the Isley Brothers, later becoming Little Richard’s band supporting guitarist.
Admired by many, Hendrix motivated special regard from fellow musician Chas Chandler of ‘The Animals’. Chandler convinced Jimi to move to London to build on his guitar-playing career. They signed a contract together, along with Michael Jeffery that represented them as Jimi’s managers.
The Peak Years
Soon after, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was founded with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The band released their first record ‘Are you Experienced’, a blues-filled, slightly melodic album with classic Hendrix songs like “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Purple Haze”. The band’s second release was equally as popular yet more melodic in nature, offering more structure in his songs, like in the masterpiece ‘Little Wing’.
The Experience’s 3rd album, ‘Electric Ladyland’ went beyond any of his previous works as a result of gaining total artistic control from Chas Chandler. Wilder and less restricted than his other albums, ‘Electric Ladyland’ broke many guitar rules while achieving admirable musical results.
During The Experience’s hiatus, Jimi formed ‘Gypsy Sun & Rainbows’ with old friend and bassist Bily Cox, and drummer Buddy Miles, later re-naming the group to ‘Band of Gipsies’.
Despite playing a few concerts, and even releasing a Live album It wasn’t too long after that, that the Jimi Hendrix Experience was reformed with Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell in a mix n’ match line-up between Hendrix’s two main groups.
During the time, Jimi was facing a number of lawsuits concerning recording contracts that were signed early in his carreer. This caused him to travel back and forth between London and U.S.A;, travels that allowed him to collaborate with artists like Steve Winwood and Bob Dylan while in the US, as well as to participate in the biggest music festival of the 60’s: Woodstock.
Close to the end of his life, Jimi played the two classic concerts Live at Monterrey and Live at the Isle of Wright, both under the exclusive recommendation of Paul McCartney. These live recordings, released after Jimi’s death in 1970, are probably the most legendary performances of the guitarist ever captured on tape.
Jimi’s last show was on September 6th, 1970, the same day that Billy Cox quit The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He died on September 18th, of 1970 in London. Jimi’s gravesite is located at the Greenwood Memorial Park near Seattle, Washington where he rests accompanied by the carving of a 1965 Fender Stratocaster; his favorite type of guitar.
Hendrix’s presence in music was a short lived 10 or so years, halted by his death on September 1970 due to a presumed overdose. In the short time that he was with us, he not only managed to reinvent music and the possibilities that it offers but to open the eyes, ears and minds of many.
With his music Jimi has taught the world to be wild and free spirited; to try, explore, and discover new things, to overcome the limits that cause our restrain in an, almost, prophetic approach.
Rest in Peace Jimi. Rest assured you’ll transcend for as long as music lives.