Jimi Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix) is widely acknowledged by his peers and fans as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. His fusion of rock, blues and experimental sounds created some of the best guitar playing that the world has ever experienced.
Jimi was born in 1942 and as a teenager and young adult he was definitely a product of the 60's. He played in numerous bands and traveled the country and Europe perfecting his skills before he eventually became a breakout star with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967. His legendary performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival and at Woodstock cemented his status as one of the greatest performers of all time and he was recognized as such by his peers and subsequent rock historians. Hendrix was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2003 Rolling Stone Magazine named Hendrix as the #1 guitarist on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time.
Although never a chart topper, Hendrix has many songs that remain iconic more than 40 years after his passing. Purple Haze, All Aong the Watchtower, and Foxy Lady are just a few of the songs that sound just as good today as they did when they were first recorded. His claim to fame was not his ability to make hit records, it was his ability to move crowds with his live performances that were so exciting and ground breaking that he literally left people mesmerized.
Jimi could play the guitar with either hand, with his teeth, and behind his back. With his guitar and amplifier he made sounds come out of the guitar that until then had never been heard before. His skill level was leaps and bounds above his peers and he played with such ferocity that at the end of performances he would destroy his guitar by smashing it or at times lighting it on fire. It was as if he had gotten everything he could get out of his instrument and was performing a death ritual for his expired friend.
Jimi crossed all racial barriers and arguably was as important to the civil rights movement as some of the most prominent leaders of the sixties. He showed black and white America that anybody can play any kind of music. Of course the millions of young people of the 60's already knew this, but his unmatched gifts showed Europe and America that ANYBODY could be the best at ANYTHING. For young African Americans of the 60's as well as today, Jimi Hendrix serves as inspiration and a reminder that you should never allow yourself to be stopped by false racial barriers. Truly a pioneer and a legend, Jimi Hendrix is the undisputed best rock guitar player of all time.
Jimi Hendrix was a man of peace. Even though he did his duty as an American and served in the military (not by choice) Jimi Hendrix was all about peace and love between individuals, races and countries.
Jimi Hendrix did not believe in racial barriers. He did not believe in fake racial barriers that stopped people from loving each other, listening to each others music, and experiencing all the culture that the world has to offer. He appreciated all styles of music, and it was this appreciation that created that blended sound that still has not been duplicated to this very day.
Jimi Hendrix believed in living his life on his own terms. He often spoke about dying young and leaving this earth to go to the next stage when he was done. Many (including Jimi) felt and still feel that Hendrix was put on this earth to inspire a generation and when it was over he would be too. It certainly played out that way and if you listen to Hendrix talk about his life it seems to have gone exactly as he wanted it go.
Jimi Hendrix was never afraid to learn and experiment. He tried all styles of music, food, drugs and women; whatever was out in the world to be sampled he tried. It was his choice to do what he did and he did not let fear or society dictate how he lived his life. He was honest about the way he lived and because of that he was truly free until the day he died.
Jimi Hendrix worked hard. Jimi Hendrix had a very difficult childhood and was definitely not an overnight success. He taught himself how to play the guitar and put in his dues all across the US and in Europe before achieving superstardom. His perseverance and total dedication to his craft is what made him an eventual success.
"I'm the one that has to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to." - Jimi Hendrix
There are so many amazing recordings to choose from when looking for Hendrix' work. Books and movies are not as plentiful. Below are a couple of videos that give a window into the talent that was Jimi Hendrix.
Voodoo Chile (Live Berkely, CA 1970)
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