A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix
This is my tribute to Jimi Hendrix who I regard as one of the finest ever guitar players and a pioneer of modern popular music.
Up from the Skies
For many rock fans and musicians Jimi Hendrix set the pop music world alight with his searing lead guitar playing during the psychedelic era of the late ‘60s. Always imaginative and always daring he broke new ground with his music producing new sounds and reinventing the way the electric guitar was played as a musical instrument
His music was new and different to the Pop and Rock music world and his flamboyant psychedelic way of dressing and Afro-hairstyle gave him the appearance of someone from another world. Indeed in many of his songs such as “Up from the skies” and “Third Stone from the sun” he takes the persona of an alien observer of humanity from another planet.
Hendrix was influenced by Albert King and other giants of the blues though he also drew from jazz, soul and folk music. He had spent many of his earlier years touring with Little Richard, The Isley Brothers and other more obscure bands.
His own unique style
Maybe not being able to read or write music freed him from conventions to develop his own unique style, allowing, or even forcing him to develop his guitar playing in the way he did. There was little in the way Hendrix played the guitar that was conventional. He could play it behind his back; he could play it with his teeth!
As can be seen from the poster above his guitar technique was different to most other guitarists. He used a right-handed guitar upside down that was strung for left-hand playing. This changed the sound that was produced when the strings were played. He was also innovative in his use of the of tremolo bar and wah-wah pedal and experimented with controlling electronic feedback to create an exciting new sounds and used speakers in different ways creating a boldly progressive new sound and style that was revolutionary to the day.
n 1966, Hendrix had signed up with a new manager, Chas Chandler, former bass player with the Animals, moved to London. There he joined up with bass player Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience and further develop his playing and performing style.
From then on his rise to fame was meteoric. If his recorded music sound was different and exciting, then his live performances were electric and exhilarating. His music his Afro-hairstyle, flamboyant and colourful way of dressing and the way he played and moved provocatively on stage presented him as someone from another world. No one had ever seen or heard anything like him before.
The band’s first single, ‘Hey Joe,’ reached No. 6 in the UK charts in 1967 and was followed by ‘Purple Haze,’ which reached No. 3. Other singles he released included ‘The Wind Cries Mary.’ ‘Burning of the Midnight lamp,’ All Along the Watchtower,’ and ‘Voodoo Chile.’
The First Three Albums
Their first studio album, Are You Experienced, was released in the UK without the first three hits and later in the USA and Canada with them replacing “Red House", "Remember" and "Can You See Me". This went on to become a double platinum album and an all time rock classic.
Their second album Axis: Bold as Love, was released in the UK in 1967 reaching No 5 in the UK Charts and No. 3 in the USA. Most of the songs were created using studio techniques and only ‘Spanish Castle Magic,’ and ‘Little Wing,’ were regularly performed live on stage.
The band’s third album was Electric Ladyland, released by Reprise Records in October, 1968. This album saw Hendrix working together with other musicians such as Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Dave Mason from the British band, Traffic. Other artists included Al Kooper, Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane and Freddie Smith, Mike Finnegan and Larry Faucette.
|Are You Experienced [+video]|
|Axis: Bold As Love [+video]|
The Monterey International Pop Festival 1967
In the UK, The Jimi Hendrix Experience enjoyed enormous success but it was not until 1967 when he returned to the USA to play the Monterey International Pop Festival that he hit the big time in America and the rest of the world. This was his first major American performance and he was lined up with British band, The Who also making their first major American performance. Janis Joplin made her first public performance and Otis Redding performed for the first time to a predominantly white audience.
This was definitely the place to be for any aspiring rock artist wanting to make their name in the pop music world. Many of the top Pop and Rock bands and artists from the USA, Britain and around the world were performing and the roll call included:-
- Eric Burdon and The Animals,
- Simon and Garfunkel,
- Canned Heat,
- Janis Joplin,
- Country Joe and the Fish,
- Steve Miller Band,
- The Byrds,
- Jefferson Airplane
- Otis Redding
- Ravi Shankar
- Buffalo Springfield
- The Who
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- The Grateful Dead
- Scott McKenzie
- The Mamas & the Papas
Significant absences from the UK were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, though Brian Jones was present at the festival.
Pete Townsend of The Who did not want to follow The Jimi Hendrix Experience and in turn Hendrix did not want to follow The Who. Both bands had planned to climax their performance by smashing their guitars and equipment on stage. The matter was decided by a toss of a coin and The Who produced a spectacular performance climaxed with smashing up their guitars as they had planned.
Hendrix followed with a spectacular explosive climax to his performance. During his last number Wild Thing,’ he not only violently destroyed his equipment, similar to Townsend and The Who, but topped them by sacrificially setting fire to his guitar before smashing it to pieces to the delight of a frenzied audience. This performance rocketed The Jimi Hendrix Experience to American and global fame
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair , August 1969
Hendrix, along with Mitchell, formed new musical alliances with Billy Cox, Jerry Velez and Juma Sultan to create the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows who performed together at Woodstock. His performance climaxed with a spectacular rendering of The Star-spangled banner, to the delight and appreciation of the audience.
After Woodstock Hendrix, Cox and Electric Flag drummer, Buddy Miles, were to perform together as the Band of Gypsys. From their performances came the album’s Band of Gypsys, and the posthumous Live at the Filimore East, in 1999.’ Many other of his studio and live works have been released as bootlegs or compilations and are still widely sold today.
1968 - The ‘Experience.’ changes
1968 - The ‘Experience.’ changes
The stresses of touring and studio work through out 1968 saw tensions arising between Hendrix and Redding resulting in the band splitting, though Hendrix and Mitchell continued to work together afterwards.
September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix Dies
Mitch Mitchell again joined up with Hendrix and along with bass player, Billy Cox reformed the Jimi Hendrix Experience working in the studio on a new album called “First Rays Of The New Rising Sun.” Sadly on September 18, 1970, Hendrix passed away before the album could be completed but it was later release in 1997.
Unfortunately when he was alive his notorious ‘Wild Man” image and showmanship on stage often overshadowed his skill and musicianship. Today he is recognised by many leading rock guitarists and musicians as an innovator and trail-blazer in his interpretation of how the guitar can be played and many regard him as one of the best guitarists ever.
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