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Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix Jimi Hendrix perhaps no other rock-and-roll trailblazer was as original or as influential in such a short span of time as Jimi Hendrix. Widely acknowledged as one of the most daring and inventive virtuosos in rock history, Hendrix pioneered the electric guitar (he played a right-handed Fender Stratocaster– his “Electric Lady”–upside-down and left-handed) as an electronic sound source capable of feedback, distortion, and a host of other effects that could be crafted into an articulate and fluid emotional vocabulary. And though he was on the scene as a solo artist for less than five years, Hendrix is credited for having a profound effect on everyone from George Clinton and Miles Davis to guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Vernon Reid. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942, Hendrix’s father, James “Al” Hendrix, later changed his son’s name to James Marshall. Young Jimi taught himself to play the guitar during his schoolboy days in Seattle, drawing influence from blues legends like B.B.

King and Robert Johnson. He slung his guitar over his back and left home to enlist in the 101st Division of the Air Force (the “Screaming Eagles”), where he served as a parachute jumper until an injury led to his discharge. Hendrix then began working as a session guitarist under the name Jimmy James, playing behind such marquee acts as Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Isley Brothers. After gigging extensively with Little Richard in 1964, Hendrix became entangled in a contract dispute with the mercurial artist and left to form his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. With the exception of an obscure single, “My Diary,” with Rosa Lee Parks, none of the music Hendrix cut with other artists was made more remarkable by his presence.

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After playing Greenwich Village coffeehouses for the better part of a year (still under the moniker Jimmy James), Hendrix encountered Chas Chandler, of Animals fame, at a New York City club. Impressed with his playing, Chandler, who was then looking to switch gears to management, took Hendrix to London in the fall of 1966 and masterminded the creation of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Backed by Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums, the Experience offered Hendrix the wide-open rock-and-roll format he needed to exercise his dazzling skills as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Chandler unleashed the band on the London pop scene, and in short order, Hendrix et al. became the talk of the town.

Hendrix’s first single, “Hey Joe,” a cover of a song written by the L.A. band the Leaves, hit the U.K. charts in early 1967, followed in quick succession by “Purple Haze,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and the trio’s ferocious debut album, Are You Experienced?, which featured those tracks and the Hendrix staples “Foxy Lady” and “Manic Depression.” Hendrix’s popularity Stateside was a bit slower in igniting, but Are You Experienced? finally broke through in a major way after a defining moment at the famed Monterey Pop Festival when the notoriously outlandish frontman created a sensation by coaxing flames from his Strat during the band’s performance. The next year, Hendrix’s eclectic psychedelia reached a zenith with two albums, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland–the latter ranks as one of the greatest works of the rock era. But the experience at the top didn’t last long– Hendrix and bassist Redding grew apart, and muddled by overindulgence in drugs and groupies, Hendrix came to believe–wrongly–that his management was cheating him.

In 1969, the Experience disbanded. In the summer of 1969, Hendrix played Woodstock with an informal ensemble called the Electric Sky Church, in a performance highlighted by another career-defining moment: a startling, renegade rendition of “The Star- Spangled Banner.” Hendrix subsequently formed the Band of Gypsys, with old Air Force friend Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles (Electric Flag) on drums. The band’s New Year’s Eve concert at the Fillmore East in New York City provided them with material for their first album, Band of Gypsys (more material from the show was released on Band of Gypsys 2 in 1986). Hendrix brought Mitch Mitchell back into the fold in mid- 1970 to begin work on a new double album Jimi had tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Several tracks were recorded for the project, but the sessions were sandwiched between tour dates, and, sadly, the album was left unfinished when Hendrix died September 18, 1970.

The cause of death noted on the coroner’s report was inhalation of vomit after barbiturate intoxication. In 1993, the investigation into Hendrix’s death was reopened by Scotland Yard, but when no new evidence was unearthed, the matter was dropped. In 1971, several of the tracks intended for First Rays were compiled and released as The Cry of Love, and the ensuing years have witnessed a flood of releases of Hendrix tributes, books, videos, and albums, including pre-fame barrel-scrapings of Hendrix takes from his pickup guitarist days. Posthumous releases took on new life in the CD era. In 1994, MCA released three Hendrix thematic compilations: one devoted to blues songs recorded between 1966 and 1970 (Jimi Hendrix: Blues), one to his live performance at Woodstock (Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock), and a third (Voodoo Soup) that represented an attempt to recreate Hendrix’s unfinished fourth studio album. In April of 1997, yet another attempt was made to recreate the album Hendrix was working on at the time of his death, but this time the project was overseen by Hendrix co-producer Eddie Kramer and historian John McDermott–and it had the Hendrix family stamp of approval.

The seventeen-track album, First Rays of the New Rising Sun, is arguably the best assemblage of Hendrix leftovers so far. Despite these transgressions against his nearly faultless musical legacy and attempts to create what could have been, Hendrix’s innovations and soul live on in the playing of every rock-and- roll guitarist.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix Jimi Hendrix, the greatest guitarist in rock history, revolutionized the sound of rock. In 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience rocked the nation with their first album, Are You Experienced?. Hendrix’s life was cut short by the tragedy of drugs in 1970, when he was only twenty seven years old. In these three years the sound of rock changed greatly, and Hendrix’s guitar playing was a major influence. Jimi was born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942. As a young boy, whenever the chance came, Jimi would try to play along with his R & B records.

However, music was not his life long dream. At first, the army was. In the late 1950’s, Hendrix enlisted in the 101st Airborne Division. After sustaining a back injury during a jump, he received a medical discharge. After his army career came to an abrupt end, he decided to go into the music field. By this time he had become an accomplished guitarist, and was soon to become known as the greatest guitarist ever (Stambler, pg. 290).

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However, he did not start out at the top. Jimi started out playing as part of the back-up for small time R & B groups. It did not take long before his work was in demand with some of the best known artists in the field, such as B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson, Littler Richard, Wilson Pickett, and King Curtis (Clifford, pg. 181). Using the name Jimmy James, he toured with a bunch of R & B shows, including six months as a member of James Brown’s Famous Flames (Stambler, pg. 290). At the Cafe Wha! in New York, in 1966, Hendrix decided to try singing.

Jimi lucked out when a man by the name of Charles Chas Chandler from Eric Burdon’s Animals heard him at the club and thought he was sensational. When Chas heard him again later that year, he talked Jimi into moving to England where he would really get the chance to start his career (Stambler, pg. 290). Along with Chas, Hendrix auditioned some musicians to complete the new Hendrix group. They choose Mitch Mitchell, a fantastic drummer, and Noel Redding, one of England’s best guitar and bass players (Stambler, pg. 290).

In 1966, at the Olympia in Paris, the Experience debuted. One year later, the Experience was breaking attendance records right and left at European clubs. When the Monkees toured England in 1967, they heard Jimi and liked him. The Monkees asked Hendrix to join them on their tour through the U.S., and Jimi was on his way home (Stambler, pg. 290).

Jimi’s erotic stage actions, suggestive lyrics, and guitar-smashing antics.. did not go over well with the Monkees’ fans or many adults. Being criticized over and over again forced the Experience to be dropped from the tour (Stambler, pg. 290). This however did not get Hendrix down. By the end of the year, the group was invited to the Monterey Pop Festival.

Jimi won a standing ovation for the ..nerve-shattering sounds from the group’s nine amplifiers and eighteen speakers, topped by Jimi dousing his guitar with lighter fluid and burning it.. (Stambler, pg. 291). Hendrix became popular overnight, and his shows became standing room only. His stage acts were so wild, Time magazine described it as: He hopped, twisted and rolled over sideways without missing a twang or a moan. He slung the guitar low over swiveling hips, or raised it to pick the strings with his teeth; he thrust it between his legs and did a bump and grind, crooning: ‘oh, baby, come on now, sock it to me.’..For a symbolic finish, he lifted the guitar and flung it against the amplifiers.

Time (April 25, 1968). His specialty became the way he used feedback, which up until now was an undesired sound. Using his guitar and the feedback it created, he was able to generate sounds which were used to his advantage in creating his unique style. This style is copied today by modern rock artists; however, this style is duplicated today with the use of special equipment, such as synthesizers. Are You Experienced?, Electric Ladyland, Axis: Bold as Love, and Smash Hits were all platinum albums.

For the year of 1968, Billboard named him Artist of the Year; and in August he played a heart-stopping performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. His fame did not last forever though. In 1969, the Experience broke-up. However, Hendrix claimed it was not forever, but was just a chance for the members to develop their musical abilities. Then Jimi’s drug addiction became worse. In Toronto, he was arrested for possession of heroin (Stambler, pg.

291). None of this held him back from his music though. He played with other rock artists such as Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, and their album, Band of Gypsy’s, won a gold record. In 1969, he was chosen as the Artist of the Year by Playboy. His career seemed limitless, but the heroin use caught up with him (Stambler, pg.

291). On September 18, 1970, he was found dead in his room from a drug overdose. He was only twenty seven years old. His music has not been forgotten, as it is still popular today. If his addiction had not overcome him, he could still be revolutionizing the style of rock today.


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