Jimi Hendrix: Rock 'n' Roll Legend The extraordinary performances, recording, and lyrics of James Marshall Hendrix have made him impossible to forget. This American rock guitarist made a legendary mark. Not only in the history of rock 'n' roll, but also on pop culture as a whole (Mitchel 1 32). With unique techniques never seen before and blatant sex-related performances on stage, he became one of the most influential music figures of the 60's (Murray 96). Hendrix was not born into stardom nor was it given to him by any means. He strived all throughout his life to be the very best.
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington to Al and Lucille Hendrix. Four years later did his father decided to change his son's name to James Marshall Hendrix. He did not lead an easy life. He changed schools quite often and to top it all off his parents divorced in 1958. To add to it all, his mother died just one year later (Scuse Me While, Henderson 42). Hendrix needed something to turn around his life.
Hendrix purchased his first guitar in 1958. It was a used acoustic for which he paid only five dollars. At the age of seventeen with only one year's playing experience, he joined his first band, the Rocking Kings. It may be hard to imagine, but Hendrix was also in the Army for a brief period of time. He was soon discharged as a result of "medical unsuitability" after a parachuting accident in which he landed on his ankle (Scuse Me While, Henderson 48). He ventured back to his hometown of Seattle and began playing with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouver's (Mitchell 68).
Hendrix was then quickly discovered by Little Richard in 1963. He soon regretted the decision because he felt the tour was degrading, and he was constrained as being a sideman to Richard. His guitar was used as little more than a background rhythm instrument. Hendrix developed his playing talent and soon discovered how to gain control and take lead of the music.
Unfortunately, he was never able to get Richard to realize his talents, so he abandoned Richard's tour in St. Louis (Mitchell 102). After aimlessly wandering for awhile, Hendrix found himself in Atlanta and once again teamed up with Little Richard. The tour brought them to Los Angeles where he then went in his own direction. He hooked up with Richard for a third time during the summer of 1964 to record an album. He again felt confined as being only a backup to Little Richard (Mitchell 123).
Hendrix later joined the budding musician Arthur Lee, but the partnership did not last long as he once again set out in search of his own identity (Mitchell 68). He embarked as a traveling musician for various tours backing such artists as Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, King Curtis, Solomon Burke, Chuck Jackson, Jackie Wilson, and several others (Carter 75). On his next endeavor, he teamed up with saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood. The pair was short-lived as Hendrix soon split, and his adventurous spirit ended him up in New York where he rented a small, cheap apartment and drifted from job to dead-end job (Dannemann 173). Hendrix was a discombobulated mess.
He was running around trying to find himself. His attempts were taking him in and out of bands. The spring of 1964 brought better luck to Hendrix. Ronnie Isley of the Isley Brothers hired him on the spot as lead guitarist after hearing him play. He lived with the group for a few months, and they actually purchased him his first Fender guitar (Hendrix 236).
The band toured in 1964 and also released some albums. Hendrix was still dissatisfied with his situation. He grew tired of the group and left the Isley to join Curtis Knight and the Squires (Hendrix 153). Not long had the group been playing in the New Jersey area when Keith Richard, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, caught a glimpse of the stand out guitarist and wanted to help the young, developing musician.
He brought Hendrix to the attention of important music industry people (Carter 98). On October 15, 1965, Hendrix signed his first recording contract with Ed C halpin and PP Productions in which he was paid a single dollar and promised one percent royalty on all future record sales (Carter 112). He formed his dynamic rock band on October 12, 1966 and called it the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a name that will never be forgotten. The peculiar spelling of his name was of his manager's invention.
In the group, Hendrix jammed on lead guitar; Noel Redding played bass, and Mitch Mitchell played drums (Loveless 65). The trio was comprised of three very different personalities, but Hendrix led them in their eccentric hair and dress styles, wild stage behavior, and most of all, the unprecedented music the group delivered to their public (Murray 119). It seemed as if Hendrix, in all his radiance, actually stimulated the other members of the group when they played on stage together (Jimi Hendrix, Henderson 108). He created sounds new to the rock 'n' roll scene which included wah-wah, feedback, phasing, fuzz tone, distortion, and other effects. Hendrix also assimilated different styles of music such as hard rock, jazz, R & B, blues, funk, and pop to form music with a new twist (Glebbeek 46). He played the guitar with his hands, feet, legs, and mouth which was chaotic, but also full of expression, emotion, and not to mention eroticism (Jimi Hendrix, Henderson 24).
His music helped rock 'n' roll become a part of growing up in the 60's generation, even though the Experience was often criticized for getting too violent on stage by destroying instruments during performances (Murray 197). Their first album reached the public in July 1967. It was a bigger hit in England than in America but spent many weeks on the charts in both countries. The album was certified platinum, and the popularity of the band sky-rocketed. Tours were rapidly booked, and the Experience ended up playing on 108 dates in 1967 alone (Cox 298).
Along with the gift of fame came humility as Hendrix's life became an open book publicized by tabloids and media. Nevertheless, the band played on (Dannemann 35). On June 18, 1967 the Experience performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in California. Hendrix and the other members received an exceptional welcome home to America after the grueling nine-month tour in England. Over 50,000 members of the hippie subculture were in attendance at the sold-out concert. Hendrix stunned the entire audience with his amazing guitar-burning finale.
He set fire to his most prized possession, his Fender Stratocaster, as a heartfelt thanksgiving to his devoted fans (Mitchell 76). Hendrix proved his legendary talent at the amazing concert and earned the name "acid king of the guitar" (Murray 145). The release of the group's second album, Axis: Bold As Love, came a year later in December 1967 after much hard work. The original album recording was lost, and deadlines caused the band to have to remix it in its entirety in just under eleven hours (Carter 32). It was certified platinum, and Hendrix gained even more loyal supporters. He was completely dedicated to his music and not only slept with his guitar but also spent his every waking moment playing it (Cox 247).
He had already begun work on Electric Lady land, the Experience's third album, in the middle of 1967. The album was a reflection of his life, and the music was filled with melancholy, angst, loneliness, and fear (Glebbeek 53). It took a year to complete simply because Hendrix was a perfectionist and strived to get every piece of his music exactly the way he envisioned it. The hard work paid off as it was the only number one album for Hendrix. However, the non-stop recording and tour schedules foreshadowed what each of the members knew would come soon, the end of the Experience (Cox 286). The band performed almost daily; after spending five months touring throughout eastern Europe, they came straight to America on February 1, 1968 with no break in between tours.
The final concert played by the Jimi Hendrix Experience was at the Denver Pop Festival at the end of a U.S. tour (Cox 247). June 29, 1969 brought the end of the Experience. After Hendrix's band decided to call it quits, Hendrix made an appearance on the Tonight Show and was backed by the show's own house band (Cox 283). Next, he emerged with an all-black group, the Band of Gypsys, with Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. Some people believed he did this as a result of the Black Panthers urging him to speak out during his time of stardom for the black power movement and redeem rock 'n' roll as the rightful music of blacks (Murray 234-6). On New Year's Eve of 1969, his new band made their debut at the Fillmore East in New York.
Many fans feel this was the climax of Hendrix's career, and his set of performances at the event went down in history as one of the most remarkable rock concerts ever (Cox 239). The short-lived Band of Gypsys stayed together for five months and only performed a total of five concerts. Be that as it may, they seemed to encounter many problems during the brief period of time they were together. The management disliked the fact that all the members were black, and Hendrix was in dispute over several lawsuits concerning recording rights (Cox 175).
Their funds disappeared fast, and interviews and tours seemed to drag them down even further. Even so, the group pressed on with their desire to achieve greatness (Scuse Me While, Henderson 197). The Band of Gypsys was hired to headline the Woodstock Festival, a three day outdoor concert in August of 1969 with over twenty musical numbers. The event took place on Max Yasgar's 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York near the town of Woodstock. The three-day festival was delayed six days because the hot weather was stifling, and the rain refused to quit (Jimi Hendrix, Henderson 99). Twenty-mile long traffic jams gave Hendrix no choice but to be airlifted to the stage.
His most striking performance at the event was a psychedelic rock version of the "Star Spangled Banner" even though he went on stage at 5: 00 Monday morning and the crowd of half a million had died down to only a few thousand. He was paid $125,000 for the event, and the trio went down in history as one of the highest-paid rock bands ever (Cox 206). The Band of Gypsys's elf-titled first album was released May 20, 1970 by Capitol Records and certified gold. Although the perfectionist Hendrix was not really satisfied with the album, he had no control over it reaching the public because it was part of a contract he had signed years earlier and was forced to honor (Cox 194). In February 1970, drummer Mitch Mitchell from the Experience hooked up with Hendrix and Cox to replace Miles on drums. Not long after, Hendrix and the band traveled to his hometown of Seattle, to which he had not returned since his departing to enlist in the Army at the age of seventeen.
He received a warm welcome and was awarded an honorarium from the school from which he had failed to graduate, Garfield High, and was presented with the keys to the city by the mayor. Before he left once again, Hendrix performed a concert at Sick's Stadium to display his gratitude (Cox 207). He then disappeared from the eyes of the public until it was arranged that he and the band play in an event at the Magical Garden of the Haleakala Crater on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. Later that month in 1970, without stopping to rest, the Band of Gypsys traveled back to New York in celebration of the grand opening of Electric Lady, the studio which Hendrix had always dreamed of creating. Recorded in this studio was the very last album before the death of Hendrix, Cry of Love (Cox 216). To finish paying the costs of the newly opened studio, Hendrix was forced to return to touring (Loveless 35).
The traveling never seemed to end; from New York, the band was on their way to Europe where they were to begin yet another exhausting series of concerts. They were tired, and in England they faced non-stop rain and an uncontrollable audience. The tour pressed on and the three members of the group made their way to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Denmark, Copenhagen, Berlin, and finally the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany where the concert took place on September 6, 1970. It turned out to be a disaster filled with a crowd of angry German bikers.
The crowd actually chanted "go home" to Hendrix (Mitchell 103). After the tour was dragged out to its end, Hendrix returned to England to stay with his girlfriend Monika Dannemann. He tried his best to remain in solitude and missed important meetings pertaining to his contracts and other career business (Carter 90). The life of this amazing man ceased to an abrupt and all too hasty end on September 18, 1970 when he was but twenty-seven years old. He became ill from a mixture of wine and quinalbarbitone, a sleeping pill prescribed not to Hendrix but to his girlfriend (Mitchell 208). When the ambulance was called, they rushed to his London hotel and dashed him back to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The attendants had carelessly laid him on his back; as a result of their ineptitude, he asphyxiated in his own vomit (Mitchell 213). Fortunately, the tragic death of this young man came after rather than before he had contributed so much to the rock 'n' roll era of the 60's. Not only did he inspire black musicians to persevere in their careers, but he also influenced the entire pop culture with his unprecedented music and stunning performances. In the eyes of many Americans, the legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix will live on forever. 1. Carter, Nancy.
Fulton, Meatball. Hendrix, Jimi. Hendrix Speaks Sound Recording; the Jimi Hendrix Interviews. Santa Monica, CA: Rhino Records, 1990.2.
Cox, Billy. Kramer, Eddie. Mcdermott, John. Jimi Hendrix Sessions: The Complete Studio Recording Sessions, 1963-1970. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.3.
Dannemann, Monika. The Inner World of Jimi Hendrix. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.4. Glebbeek, Caesar.
Shapiro, Harry. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1995.5. Henderson, David.
Jimi Hendrix; Voodoo Child of the Aquarian Age. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.6. Henderson, David. Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.7.
Hendrix, Jimi. Ni topi, Bill. Cherokee Mist: the Lost Writings. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.8.
Loveless, B elmo. Loveless, Steve. Jimi Hendrix: Experience the Music. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Collector's Guide Pub., 1998.9. Mitchell, Mitch.
Platt, John. Hendrix Experience. New York: Harmony Books, 1990.10. Murray, Charles S haar.
Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Post- War Rock n Roll Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.