Jimi Hendrix

Missing image
Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (November 27, 1942September 18, 1970) was an American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer who is widely considered to be the most important electric guitarist in the history of popular music. Hendrix played the guitar left-handed. As a guitarist, he built upon the innovations of blues stylists such as B. B. King, Albert King, T-Bone Walker, and Muddy Waters, as well as those of R&B guitarists like Curtis Mayfield. In addition, he extended the tradition of rock guitar: although previous guitarists, such as The Kinks' Dave Davies, and The Who's Pete Townshend, had employed feedback, distortion and other special effects as sonic tools, Hendrix, due to his grounding in blues, soul music and R&B, was able to use these devices in a way that transcended their sources. He was also an accomplished songwriter whose compositions have been covered by countless artists. As a record producer and musical architect, he was one of the first to use the recording studio as an extension of his musical ideas. Finally, his image as a rock star places him in the lineage of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles.

The controversial nature of Hendrix's style is epitomized in the sentiments expressed about his renditions of the "Star Spangled Banner", a tune he played loudly and sharply accompanied by simulated sounds of war (machine guns, bombs and screams) produced by Hendrix on guitar. The unforgettable renditions have been described by some people as a generation's statement on the unrest in U.S. society, and by others as an anti-American mockery; oddly symbolic of the beauty, spontaneity, and tragedy that was endemic to Hendrix's life. When asked on the Dick Cavett Show if he was aware of the outrage generated with the performance, Hendrix replied, "I thought it was beautiful."


Youth and pre-professional career

Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix, in Seattle, Washington the son of Al Hendrix and Lucille Jeter. His father later renamed him James Marshall Hendrix. He grew up shy and sensitive. Like his contemporaries John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Hendrix was deeply affected by family events — his parents' divorce in 1951 and the death of his mother in 1958, when he was 16. He was close to his maternal, part Cherokee grandmother who instilled in him a strong sense of pride about his Native American ancestry. Both of Jimi's paternal grandparents were vaudeville performers who settled in Vancouver, Canada, where his father, Al Hendrix, was born. Al relocated to Seattle after serving in World War II, where he met and married Lucille Jeter. After Lucille's death, Al gave Jimi a ukulele, and later bought him a $5 acoustic guitar, setting him on the path to his future vocation.

After playing with several local Seattle bands, Hendrix enlisted in the Army, joining the 101st Airborne Division (stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky) as a trainee paratrooper. After less than a year he received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle on his 26th parachute jump. He said later that the sound of air whistling through the parachute shrouds was one of the sources of his "spacy" guitar sound.

Hendrix was discharged from the US Army three years before the Vietnam War saw large numbers of US soldiers arrive. But his recordings would become favourites of soldiers fighting there.

After leaving Ft. Campbell, Hendrix and his friend and bandmate Billy Cox moved to nearby Nashville. There they played, and sometimes lived, in the clubs along Jefferson Street, the traditional heart of Nashville's black community, and home to a lively rhythm and blues scene.

Later, Hendrix made a precarious living performing in backing bands for touring soul and blues musicians, including Curtis Knight, B. B. King, and Little Richard during 1965. His first notice came from appearances with The Isley Brothers, notably on the two-parter Testify in 1964.


On October 15, 1965, Hendrix signed a 3-year recording contract with entrepreneur Ed Chalpin, receiving $1 and 1% royalty on records with Curtis Knight. The contract later caused litigation with Hendrix and other record labels.

By 1966 he had his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, and a residency at the Cafe Wha? (sic) in New York City. During this period Hendrix met and worked with singer-guitarist Ellen McIlwaine and guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Hendrix also became close friends with a young guitarist named Randy California, who would later co-found the band Spirit, which was highly influential for a young Led Zeppelin and helped pioneer a jazz-rock aesthetic later popularized by The Doors. Hendrix also met iconoclast Frank Zappa during this time. Zappa introduced Hendrix to the newly-invented wah-wah pedal, a sound effect pedal which Hendrix soon made an integral part of his sound and became an acknowledged master.

While performing with The Blue Flames at the Cafe Wha?, Chas Chandler (bassist of The Animals) discovered Hendrix. Chandler took him to England - Hendrix was eager to go in order to meet Eric Clapton -, signed Hendrix to a management and production contract as his record producer, and helped him form a new band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

With his first few show-stopping London club appearances, word of the new star spread through the British music industry. His showmanship and dazzling virtuosity made instant fans of reigning guitar heroes Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, as well as members of The Beatles and The Who, whose managers signed Hendrix to The Who's record label, Track Records. Jimi's first single was a cover of "Hey Joe", a stylised blues song written by Billy Roberts that was virtually a standard for rock bands at the time. Hendrix and Chandler had seen folk-singer Tim Rose performing his slow arrangement of Hey Joe at the Cafe Wha?

Further Hendrix success came with the incendiary and original "Purple Haze", with a heavily distorted guitar sound that would be influential for the next 20 years, the soulful ballad "The Wind Cries Mary", and "Hey Joe". The three songs were Top 10 hits.

Established as a star in the U.K., Hendrix and his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham moved into a flat at 23 Brook Street in central London. Number 25 Brook Street was once the home of baroque composer Georg Friedrich Handel. Hendrix, aware of this musical coincidence, bought Handel recordings including the Messiah and the Water Music. Both houses make up the Handel House Museum, where both musicians are celebrated.


The 1967 release of the group's first album, Are You Experienced?, is a mix of melodic ballads "The Wind Cries Mary", pop-rock "Fire", psychedelia "Third Stone from the Sun", and blues "Red House", and is a template for much of their later work.

Hendrix went to a hospital with burns to his hands after setting his guitar on fire for the first time at the Astoria theatre in London on March 31, 1967. Later, after causing damage to amplifiers and other stage equipment at his shows, Rank Theatre management warned him to "tone down" his stage act.

The Monterey Pop Festival booked The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the urging of festival board member Paul McCartney. At the concert filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker immortalized Hendrix's iconic burning and smashing of his guitar in the film Monterey Pop.

A short gig, opening for the pop group The Monkees on their first American tour, followed the festival.

The Monkees asked for Hendrix because they were fans, but their mostly teenage audience did not warm to his outlandish stage act and he abruptly quit the tour after a few dates, just as "Purple Haze" gained popularity in America. Chas Chandler later admitted that being "thrown off" The Monkees tour was designed to gain maximum media impact and outrage for Hendrix. At the time a story circulated claiming that Hendrix was removed from the tour because of complaints made by the Daughters of the American Revolution that his stage conduct was "lewd and indecent". Australian journalist Lillian Roxon, accompanying the tour with singer Lynne Randell (the other support act), concocted the story. The claim was repeated in Roxon's 1969 Rock Encyclopedia but she later admitted it was fabricated.

Meanwhile in England, Hendrix's wild-man image and musical gimmickry (such as playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back) continued to bring publicity. He became frustrated by media and audience concentration on his stage act and his early hits, and by difficulty garnering acceptance for his newer music.

His second 1967 album, Axis: Bold as Love continued the style established by Are You Experienced with tracks such as "Little Wing" and "If 6 Was 9", showing his continuing mastery of the electric guitar. A mishap almost prevented the album's release — Hendrix lost the master tape of side 1 of the LP after he left it in a taxi. With the release deadline looming, Hendrix, Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer in an all-night session made a remix from the multitracks. Kramer and Hendrix later said that they were never entirely happy with the results.


Increasing personality differences with Noel Redding, combined with the influence of drugs, alcohol and fatigue, led to a trouble-plagued tour of Scandinavia. On January 4, 1968, Hendrix was jailed by Stockholm police, after trashing a hotel room in a drunken rage.

The band's third recording, a double album, Electric Ladyland (1968), is more eclectic and experimental than previous recordings. It features a lengthy blues jam ("Voodoo Child"), the jazz-inflected "Rainy Day, Dream Away/Still Raining, Still Dreaming", and what is probably the definitive version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". (Hendrix credited British band The Alan Brown Set for inspiration on the arrangement.)

Hendrix decided to return to America, and frustrated by the limitations of commercial recording he decided to establish his own state-of-the-art multitrack studio in New York, to which he could have unlimited access to realise his expanding musical visions. Construction of the studio, called Electric Lady, was not completed until mid-1970.

Hendrix's formerly disciplined work habits became erratic, and the combination of interminable sessions and studios filled with hangers-on finally led Chas Chandler to quit on December 1, 1968. Chandler later complained that Hendrix's insistence on doing multiple takes on every song ("Gypsy Eyes" apparently took 43 takes and he still was not satisfied), combined with what he saw as incoherence caused by drugs, led to him to sell his share of the management company to his partner Mike Jeffery.

Hendrix's studio perfectionism is legendary — he reportedly made accomplished Traffic guitarist Dave Mason do more than twenty takes of the acoustic guitar backing on All Along The Watchtower. Deeply insecure about his voice, Hendrix often recorded his vocals behind studio screens.

Many critics now believe that the ascendancy of Mike Jeffery was a negative influence on Hendrix's life and career. Jeffery (who had previously managed The Animals and was later reviled by them) allegedly embezzled much of the money Hendrix earned during his lifetime and secreted it in offshore bank accounts. Jeffrey allegedly had links to U.S. intelligence organisations (he claimed publicly to be a secret agent) and to the Mafia.

Despite the difficulties of recording Electric Ladyland, many of the tracks show Hendrix's vision expanding far beyond the scope of the original trio (it is said that the sound of the record inspired Miles Davis' sound on Bitches Brew), and saw him collaborating with a range of musicians including Dave Mason, Chris Wood and Steve Winwood from Traffic, drummer Buddy Miles and the former Dylan organist Al Kooper.


Missing image
Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock.

His expanding musical horizons were accompanied by a deterioration in his relationship with bandmates (particularly Redding), and the Experience broke up in 1969.

On January 4, 1969 he was accused by television producers of arrogance after playing an impromptu version of "Sunshine of Your Love" past his allotted time slot on the BBC1 show Happening for Lulu.

On May 3 he was arrested at Toronto International Airport after heroin was found in his luggage. He was later bailed on a $10,000 surety. Hendrix was acquitted after asserting that the drugs were slipped into his bag by a fan without his knowledge.

On June 29, Noel Redding announced that he had quit the Experience, although he had effectively ceased working with Hendrix during most of the recording of Electric Ladyland.

By August of 1969, Hendrix formed a new band called Gypsy Suns and Rainbows to play the Woodstock festival. The group featured Hendrix on guitar, Billy Cox on bass, Mitch Mitchell on drums, Larry Lee on rhythm guitar and Jerry Velez and Juma Sultan on drums and percussion. The set, while notably under-rehearsed and ragged in performance (Hendrix was reputedly "spiked" with a powerful dose of LSD just before going on stage) and played to a slowly emptying field of revelers, featured an extraordinary instrumental version of "The Star-Spangled Banner".


The Gypsy Suns and Rainbows were short-lived, and Hendrix formed a new trio, the Band of Gypsys (sic), comprising Billy Cox, an old army buddy, on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, for four memorable concerts on New Year's Eve 1969-70. The recorded concerts captured several outstanding pieces, including what some feel is one of Hendrix's greatest live performances, an explosive 12-minute rendition of his anti-war epic "Machine Gun".

His association with Miles ended abruptly during a concert at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1970, when Hendrix walked out after playing just three songs, telling the audience: "I'm sorry we just can't get it together." Miles later said in a television interview that Hendrix felt he was losing the spotlight to other musicians.

The rest of 1970 was spent mainly recording during the week, and playing live on the weekends. The "Cry of Love" tour, begun in April, was structured with this pattern in mind. Performances on this tour were uneven in quality; many are available as bootleg recordings. A show in May in Norman, Oklahoma was dedicated to the students killed in the Kent State shootings.

With the opening of Electric Lady studios, Hendrix spent more time in the studio and started laying down several new tracks. At a June concert, Hendrix announced that his next LP would come out in "July or August, in either one or two parts".

In July at the Atlanta Pop Festival the largest crowd (400,000 people) in Hendrix' career battled heat and dehydration. In August he gave his last performance in the United Kingdom, at the Isle of Wight Festival with Mitchell and Cox. Hendrix expressed disappointment on-stage at his fans' clamour to hear his old hits rather than his new ideas.

On September 6, 1970, his final stage performance, Hendrix was greeted by booing and jeering by fans at the Fehmarn Festival in Germany in a riot-like atmosphere. Bassist Billy Cox quit the tour and headed back to the United States after reportedly being dosed with PCP.

Hendrix remained in England, and on the morning of September 18, 1970, was found dead in the basement apartment of the Samarkland Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, London. He had spent the night with a German girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, and died in bed after taking a reported nine vesperax sleeping pills and choking on his own vomit. For years afterwards Danneman publically claimed Hendrix was alive when placed in the back of the Ambulance (however her comments about that morning were often contradictory and confused, varying from interview to interview). Police and Ambulance reports from the time reveal that Jimi was dead when they arrived on the scene, the apartment's front door was wide open, and the apartment itself empty. His body was returned home and he was interred in the Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington, USA. Following a Libel case brought in 1996 by Hendrix's long-term English girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, Monika Danneman took her own life.


Hendrix's style was unique. Although he synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice, being a visionary, there was something in his playing truly his own. He owned and used a variety of guitars during his career, including a Gibson Flying V that he decorated with psychedelic designs. His guitar of choice, and the instrument that became most associated with him, is the Fender Stratocaster, or "Strat". He bought his first Strat about 1965 and used them almost exclusively thereafter.

Hendrix's emergence coincided with the lifting of postwar import restrictions (imposed in many British Commonwealth countries), which made the instrument much more available, and after its initial popularisers -- Buddy Holly and Hank B. Marvin -- Hendrix arguably did more than any other player to make the Stratocaster the biggest-selling electric guitar in history. Before his arrival in the U.K. most top players used Gibsons and Rickenbackers, but after Hendrix, almost all of the leading guitarists, including Beck and Clapton, switched to the Stratocaster. Hendrix bought dozens of Strats and gave many away (including one to given to ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons). Many others were stolen and he destroyed several in his famous guitar-burning finales.

Hendrix fully exploited the Stratocaster's patented tremolo arm feature, which, unlike guitars such as the Gibson SG, normally only permitted the string pitch to bent down and then up again. The tremolo arm -- a key feature of early Sixties surf music -- enabled him to bend single notes or entire chords, and he is known to have removed at least two of the tremolo unit's five springs in order to allow him to bend the strings up or down.

The Strat's easy action and relatively narrow neck were also ideally suited to Hendrix's evolving style and enhanced his tremendous dexterity — Hendrix' hands were large enough to fret across all six strings with the top joint of his thumb alone, and he could reputedly play lead and rhythm parts simultaneously. A more amazing fact about Hendrix is that he was left-handed, yet used a right-handed Stratocaster, meaning he played the guitar upside down. While Hendrix was capable of playing with the strings upside down per se, he restrung his guitars so that the heavier strings were at the top of the neck.

The burnt and broken parts of the Stratocaster he destroyed at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival were given to Frank Zappa, who later rebuilt it and played it extensively during the 1970s and 1980s. In May 2002, Zappa's son Dweezil put the guitar up for auction in the U.S., hoping it would fetch $1 million, but it failed to sell. The legendary white 1968 Strat that Hendrix played at Woodstock sold at Sotheby's auction house in London in 1990 for 174,000 (295,800 Euros) and resold in 1993 for 750,000 (1,275,000 Euros). Both it and a shard of the burnt and broken guitar now reside in a permanent exhibit at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

Hendrix was also a catalyst in the development of modern guitar amplification and guitar effects. His high-energy stage act and the blistering volume at which he played required robust and powerful amplifiers. For the first few months of his touring career he used Vox and Fender amplifiers, but he soon found that they could not stand up to the rigours of an Experience show. But he soon discovered a new range of high-powered guitar amps being made by London audio engineer Jim Marshall and they proved perfect for his needs. Along with the Strat, the Marshall stack and Marshall amplifiers were crucial in shaping his heavily overdriven sound, enabling him to master the creative use of feedback as a musical effect, and his exclusive use of this brand soon made it the most popular amplifier in rock.

Hendrix also constantly looked for new guitar effects. He was one of the first guitarists to move past simple gimmickry and to exploit the full expressive possibilities of electronic effects such as the wah-wah pedal. He had a fruitful association with engineer Roger Mayer and made extensive use of several Mayer devices including the Axis fuzz unit, the Octavia octave doubler and especially the UniVibe, a vibrato unit designed to electronically simulate the modulation effects of the Leslie speaker.

Hendrix's sound is a unique blend of high volume and high power, precise control of feedback and a range of cutting-edge guitar effects, especially the UniVibe-Octavia combination, which can be heard to full effect on the Band of Gypsys' live version of Machine Gun. He was also known for his trick playing, which included using his teeth or playing behind his back, although he soon tired of audience demands to perform these tricks.

Despite his hectic touring schedule and his notorious perfectionism, he was a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings besides his five official LPs and various singles.

He became legendary as one of the great 1960s rock'n'roll musicians who, like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Brian Jones, rose to stardom, flourished for just a few years and died young.

Rolling Stone magazine named Hendrix the number 1 guitarist of all time.

Posthumous releases

After Hendrix's death, hundreds of his unreleased recordings emerged. Controversy arose when producer Alan Douglas supervised the mixing, overdubbing, and release of two albums' worth of material that Hendrix left in various states of completion. These include the LPs Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning and although they contain several important tracks, the albums are generally considered to be of substandard quality.

In 1972 British producer Joe Boyd put together a film documentary on Hendrix's life, titled simply Jimi Hendrix, which played in art-house cinemas around the world for many years. The double-album soundtrack to the film, including live performances from Monterey, Berkeley and the Isle of Wight, is considered the best of the posthumous releases.

Another LP to emerge in the 1970s was the live compilation Hendrix In The West, consisting of top-shelf American live recordings from the last two years of his life, including an outstanding rendition of the concert favourite "Red House".

Although the film Rainbow Bridge is generally regarded as a being of minor interest, what was billed as a soundtrack to the film (it is not the soundtrack) includes several superb tracks intended for Hendrix's fourth studio album, First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, the never-completed follow-up to Electric Ladyland. The studio tracks, "Dolly Dagger", "Earth Blues", "Room Full of Mirrors" and the melancholy improvised instrumental "Pali Gap", showed Hendrix advancing his studio technique to new levels, as well as, absorbing influences from contemporary black soul and funk acts such as James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone.

The Rainbow Bridge album is highlighted by the full-length live version of another of Hendrix's concert performances, a tour-de-force 10-minute electric version of the blues standard "Hear My Train A-Comin". He originally recorded the song in 1967 for promotional film, performing it impromptu as a short but engaging Delta-style acoustic blues played on a borrowed 12-string guitar. The 1970 electric version saw the song transformed almost beyond recognition; like Machine Gun it showcased the classic elements of the Hendrix electric sound and featured some of his most inspired improvisation. The track was taped live at a concert at the Berkeley Community Center in California. An edited filmed segment of this performance was also included in the concert film Jimi Plays Berkeley.

Interest in Hendrix waned during the 1980s, but with the advent of the compact disc, Polygram and Warner-Reprise reissued many Hendrix recordings on CD in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The earliest Polygram reissues are of a poor standard and Electric Ladyland suffered particularly, being evidently a direct transfer from the existing LP masters, with tracks placed out of their correct order. This reflected the original LP running order, an artifact of the days when double-LPs were pressed with sides 1 and 3 on one LP and sides 2 and 4 on the other, so that the records could be placed on an automatic changer and played in sequence by turning them over only once.

Polygram subsequently released a superior-quality double boxed set of eight CDs with studio tracks in one four-CD box and the live tracks in the other. This was followed by an excellent four-CD set of live concerts on Reprise. An audio documentary, originally made for radio and later released on four CDs, also appeared around this time, and included previously unreleased material.

In the late 1990s, after Hendrix's father Al regained control of his son's estate, he and daughter Janie established the Experience Hendrix company to curate and promote Jimi's extensive recorded legacy. Working in collaboration with Jimi's original engineer, Eddie Kramer, the company embarked on an extensive reissue program, including fully remastered editions of the studio albums and compilation CDs of remixed and remastered tracks intended for the First Rays of the New Rising Sun album. To date, the Experience Hendrix company has made more than $44 million from the recordings and associated merchandising.

Estate, legal wranglings

In the absence of a will, Jimi's father Al Hendrix inherited Jimi's recordings and royalty rights, and entrusted this estate to an attorney, who allegedly tricked Al into selling these rights to shell companies owned by the attorney. Al sued in 1993 for mismanaging these assets. The litigation was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, a lifelong and devoted Hendrix fan. In a 1995 settlement, Al Hendrix regained control over all his son's recordings. Several albums were then re-mastered from the original tapes and re-released. Al Hendrix died in 2002 at age 82. Control of the estate and the Experience Hendrix company that was set up to administer the Hendrix legacy then passed to Jimi's half-sister Janie.

In 2004, Janie Hendrix was sued by her half-brother, Leon Hendrix, Jimi's younger brother, who was written out of his father's will in 1997. He was seeking to have his inheritance restored and Janie removed from her position of control over the Hendrix estate. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell sided with Janie explaining, "Janie was the family member Al trusted the most." He added that Leon's battles with drug addiction, his failure to complete a treatment program, his unwillingness to work and his continual demands for money were the main reasons that Al Hendrix cut his younger son from his will.




Effect Pedals


Studio Albums

Live albums

See also

External links


Tribute bands

da:Jimi Hendrix de:Jimi Hendrix es:Jimi Hendrix eo:Jimi HENDRIX fr:Jimi Hendrix it:Jimi Hendrix nl:Jimi Hendrix no:Jimi Hendrix ja:ジミ・ヘンドリックス pl:Jimi Hendrix pt:Jimi Hendrix fi:Jimi Hendrix sv:Jimi Hendrix


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