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). 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. 90). 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 yrics, 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 is 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 hance 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.