ohnny Allen Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington on 27 Nov. 1942 and was raised by his Cherokee Indian Mother and Black father who, at age 3, changed his name to John Marshall and bought him his first guitar. Over his youth he taught himself the instrument by listening to rock 'n' Roll and blues artists like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, B.B. King and Chuck Berry. Being left handed, he routinely played his guitar upside down and reversed the strings. To avoid the US Vietnam draft, he enlisted with the paratroopers and was subsequently discharged in 1962 for medical reasons resulting from an injury sustained from a rough jump. A year later he was backing such acts as The Isley Brothers, Little Richard and Ike And Tina Turner. Getting a contract with Ed Chaplin, he would strike up a relationship with soul singer Curtis Knight, an artist who legend has it wrote the song The Ballad Of Jimi in 1965 after hearing Hendrix prophesied his own death date due in 1970. The following year he founded his own band as Jimmy James & The Blue Flames. He was discovered by Chas Chandler of The Animals shortly later and was invited to London to audition. The resulting one-off 'Polydor' 45 Hey Joe with Neil Redding (Real Name: David Redding;bass) and Mitch Mitchell (Real Name: John Mitchell; drums) got a UK 10 shortly after release near Christmas of 1966. Chandler had a chat with Kit Lambert, and Hendrix was subsequently signed to Lambert's star-up 'Track" label and shortly later the Jimi Hendrix Experience formerly opened shop.
The acid rock of Hendrix' self-penned Purple Haze (1967) made UK 3 and helped push the subsequent debut album Are You Experienced? to a 2 (5 US) in 1967. The album was quickly followed by another spin-off single The Wind Cries Mary on a Purple Haze re-release that made 65 US The phenomenon that was Hendirx was now becoming legendary, especially for his live shows where he gave the public a lesson on how the electric guitar was to be played virtually reinventing the instrument as he went. The distortion effects were legendary and he played it in ways to make noises never before heard or seen. He also demonstrated the quality of its craftsmanship by showing the effort it would take to destroy when biting it, playing it with ones teeth, rubbing it against the amplifier (or his genitals), smashing it and of course setting it on fire. At the Monterey International pop Festival in 1967 (not the one of infamy) he even played an orgasmic version of the Trog's Wild Thing, but the subsequent support tour with The Monkees left him and the teenaged pop fans confused and disappointed.
Axis: Bold As Love (1968) was his second full-length album and it finally featured the Purple Haze track. The album advanced him in the US charts by giving him a 4 (6 in the UK). His subsequent rendition of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower broke him into the US top 20 and UK 5, while Crosstown Traffic would become a staple of FM radio years later. The follow-up album Electric Ladyland (1968) made a 6 UK and a full 1 in the US The record was sold with a plain brown sleeve in many shops due to the controversial and infamous cover featuring a naked woman,an image Hendrix himself was not pleased with.
1969 was the beginning of the end. Hendrix was arrested for drugs, which led to the band's disintegration, the group playing the last time as a unit on the 29th of June at the Denver Pop festival. Mitchell would leave, followed soon after by Redding who left to form Fat Matress while forcing Hendrix to use session players Al Kooper and Steve Winwood (both keyboards) plus Jack Casady (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums) to complete the aforementioned album. Hendrix then played the Woodstock Festival with a highly acclaimed version of the US national anthem as a rock guitar solo. That same year he was found Not Guilty of the earlier drug charges involving heroin and marijuana while in Toronto.
Taking Miles and Cox with him he would form the short-lived Band Of Gypsys, an all Black act that released the live self-titled album recording at Fillmore East New Year's Day 1970. The album topped 5 in the US but Hendrix was forced to pay producer Ed Chalpin some $1 million in compensation for failure to pay a percentage of the royalties.
After several more outdoor concerts, Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead on 18th September 1970 after a strange phone call message to Chandler saying simply "I need help bad, man". The coroner's case to this day was left open as to whether there were some criminal deeds involved in his death for the coroner's report simply stated that he died from "inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication".
Although it is unknown what heights Hendrix could have come to if he had survived, or maybe he had said his peace, but to many he was and still is the greatest guitarist to have ever lived.
Footnote: Many recordings (mostly compilations) were released after Hendrix' death, only the recordings made while he was alive are registered at Diskery in our discography section.
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Jimi Hendrix performs for Dutch television show Hoepla in 1967.
Photo by: A. Vente
CC BY-SA 3.0 nl
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