Jimi Hendrix is considered as one of the greatest electric guitarists that the music world has ever witnessed. He composed music combining different genres of hard rock, jazz and blues into soulful unforgettable renditions. His style of music has been a source of inspiration for many budding musicians. He started his musical career by forming his first band The Jimmy Hendrix Experience where he played the guitar and also sang as the lead vocalist. His first single “Hey, Joe” took the world by storm. He made headlines after his iconic performance in 1969 in the Woodstock Festival and the Isle of Wight Festival in the 1970s. His second album was Axis: Bold as Love released in 1968 and his final album Electric Ladyland was also released in the same year. It featured the hit “All Along the Watchtower.” Soon after, the band split in 1969. His style of music was strongly influenced by blues artists like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, Elmore James and rhythm and blues guitarists Curtis Mayfield and Steve Cropper. His music was also inspired by the jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. This lead guitarist expired at the age of 27 on 18th September, 1970.
Jimi Hendrix Childhood
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on 27th November in 1942. He was born to father James Allen "Al" Hendrix (1919-2002) and mother Lucille Jeter (1925-1958) in Seattle, Washington. His father was originally from Vancouver, British Columbia whereas his mother was born in Seattle, Washington. Hendrix was the eldest of their five children. His father was a gifted jazz dancer who initially shuffled between lots of job before joining as a United States Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was sent to France during the World War II. His father was discharged with honor from the U.S. army on 1st September, 1945. On his return from there Al Hendrix legally changed his son's name to James Marshall Hendrix in 1946. Both Al Hendrix and Lucille were going through a rough patch in their marriage and thereafter they got divorced in 1951. Hendrix was just nine years old when his parents went through a bitter divorce. He lost his mother at the age of fifteen. His mother died of liver cirrhosis on 2nd February, 1958 owing to her excessive drinking habits.
His father Al Hendrix won the child custody over them but Hendrix always worshipped his mother in her absence. Hendrix was raised among his two brothers, Leon and Joseph, and his two sisters, Kathy and Pamela. His brother, Joseph was born physically challenged and was placed in foster care at the age of three. His other two sisters were also raised in foster care at a young age. Kathy was born blind and Pamela suffered minor physical difficulties. They had a very strict upbringing during their childhood. He was raised under the care of his paternal grandmother in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Education and Early Life
As a young boy, Hendrix was shy and sensitive by nature. He was badly influenced by his parent’s split. Hendrix was enrolled in a junior school at Washington Junior High School. He passed his school leaving exam with ease. During his high school days he got a chance to mix along with African Americans, European Americans, and Asian Americans. He was exposed to a variety of cultures and music. At the age of 15, he bought his first acoustic guitar for $5 from an acquaintance of his father. Initially Hendrix had no proper formal training in strumming the guitar. He learned to play it by watching others how to play it, by listening to records and got valuable tips from experienced players. By the middle of 1959, his father bought him a white Supro Ozark, which was his first electric guitar ever. He then learned the great songs by Blues by B.B. King and Muddy Waters.
He also performed in various local bands and played in gigs in neighboring village city areas around New York City’s Greenwich and in Vancouver, British Columbia. He performed his first gig with an unknown band in the basement of a synagogue, Seattle's Temple De Hirsch. The first formal band he played in was The Velvetones. He then joined a band called the Rocking Kings and played as a professional guitarist at the Birdland. He played the guitar between his legs, behind his back and over his head and could charm the audience with ease. Soon he became a favorite with the audience.
Meanwhile, he took admission in the Garfield High School in Seattle but he did not complete his graduation owing to his musical career and attendance problem. He was later awarded an honorary diploma in the 1990s.
At the age of 17, he dropped out of Garfield High School to join the army to avoid a jail sentence for riding in stolen cars. Hendrix got into trouble with the law twice for riding in stolen cars. He had to choose between spending two years in prison or join the Army instead. Hendrix chose the latter option. On completion of his basic training, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and was posted in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There he volunteered as a para-trooper in the army.
He met a soldier named Billy Cox who was originally a bass player. Both of them formed a band together named King Kasuals and performed regularly at a club in Nashville, Tennessee. By this time, he had drawn popularity as a renowned guitarist and emulated the late rocker Little Richard on-stage. Hendrix performed with the Isley Brothers and also with saxophonist King Curtis, and later with friend Curtis Knight. He then signed a contract with Knight's manager, Ed Chalpin and later formed his own group, Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, and shifted base to New York.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
In September 1966, Hendrix came to London with the help of Chas Chandler, who was a member of the rock band the Animals. Michael Jeffery helped him manage the band and Chandler helped him form the new band The Jimi Hendrix Experience along with Noel Redding as the bass player and John "Mitch" Mitchell on the drums. The group then performed its first hit single, titled "Hey Joe” in a stage show at London.
The first album from the band was named Are You Experienced? The band's next album was titled Axis: Bold as Love. His third and last album was Electric Ladyland.
Band of Gypsys
In 1967, the band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience broke apart due to a contractual dispute between Jimi and his producer Ed Chalpin in 1965. Hendrix then chose to record a live album, the Band of Gypsys.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Are You Experienced (1967)
- Axis: Bold as Love (1967)
- Electric Ladyland (1968)
Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys
Posthumous studio albums
- The Cry of Love (1971)
- Rainbow Bridge (1971)
- War Heroes (1972)
- Loose Ends (1974)
- Crash Landing (1975)
- Midnight Lightning (1975)
- Nine to the Universe (1980)
- Radio One (1988)
- First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)
- South Saturn Delta (1997)
- Valleys of Neptune (2010)
Jimi died at the age of 27 on 18th September, 1970 in London due to an overdose of sleeping pill.
Hendrix won many prestigious rock music awards in his lifetime. His name was inducted in the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. He was the first person whose name was included in the list of the Native American Music Hall of Fame and in 1994 a star was also dedicated to him in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is in the top ten lists of 100 greatest guitarists in the world in 2003. In 1992, Hendrix was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.