Jimi Hendrix was born in 1942 and grew up in Seattle, his community being predominantly white. He was in the care of his full-blooded Cherokee grandmother most of his life. When he was born his original name was Johnny Allen Hendrix, which was changed by his father to James Marshall when Jimi’s mother left. His mother, Lucille, left and only saw Jimi a handful of times before he died from a drug overdose in London at age 27. His father bought him his first guitar at age 12, which was played upside down due to Hendrix being a left-handed player. He was self-taught not being able to afford lessons. His music was inspired by BB King, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, and Albert King.
He played in a band in high school called The Rocking Kings and eventually dropped out of school to pursue his music. He wasn’t always only playing music contrary to what he thought in high school. He eventually enlisted in the army. He was training as a paratrooper and was honorably discharged after hurting himself parachuting. When he got out of the army he began playing again under the name Jimmy James. He played back up for Little Richard, B.B. King, and Sam Cooke.
In 1966 while playing at a bar Hendrix met Chas Chandler, bass player for The Animals, a band known for their performance of “The House of the Rising Sun”. Chandler got Hendrix to come to London and create the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi, a very young black artist, created a whole new genre of psychedelic rock in his solo career. “People were used to very dressed up watered down soul music. He wasn’t and that’s why he became who he did.” – Eric Clapton. Eric was one of Jimi’s first supporters. He told Chas to invite him to a jam session and right when Jimi walked in they agreed he had a striking presence with the way he carried himself, spoke, and played. He was shy, but very self-aware. They noticed he was left handed and was a complex talented guitar player as well. His odd mix of profound yet not flashy appearance affected Eric. “My life, and music was never the same again.” Mitch Mitchell was the drummer for Jimi Hendrix and the Experience and Noel Redding the keyboard player. Noel, unlike Mitchell, didn’t have a lot of faith in Hendrix. After the jam session he agreed only to come back if they paid him 30 dollars. After the second time playing together he knew they had something special when they didn’t even need written music to create something amazing. They played well together almost knowing what the other was thinking before they played it, and that was when the band really came together.
The first gig they had a producer had already approached their manager offering a 1,000-pound advance to promote the band. They agreed and from then on skyrocketed. The members were very young and shocked by the fame. “I was little, I was a boy. Here comes John Lennon walking into my dressing room. I almost fell out of my chair.” Said Noel. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were at their peak at this time and very early on were supporters of Jimi. During an interview with Mick Jagger he said “Why are you interviewing me? You should be interviewing Jimi Hendrix.” That was a spark to the fan base.
Jimi was building in the media, but at that time sex was selling. They made him mysterious and flashy to attract girls and attention. Mick Jagger being a supporter and a sex symbol himself also set a heart throb view of Jimi. He was very different than the media portrayed him, and it threw off many people who met him. “Here he was a raw sexual model in these magazines. It threw you when you met him. He was a shy, whispering, gentle character off stage. He was slyly hip and saw the world different. He would have a sly grin to him and you would know he saw something different than what you had seen.” His producer explained.
Jimi never let Mitch and Noel in on his music in the making because he couldn’t. Jimi would make up these songs in his head Mitch would ask what tempo it was in and Noel would ask what key it was and they would play it letting Jimi tweak it along the way, creating many songs that went to British top ten immediately within minutes. “I can’t express myself like this, in conversation like this. It doesn’t come out that way. That’s why I have to do it on stage.” – Jimi.
Jimi ended up preforming with The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who. The store on Bardstown road, Electric Ladyland, is also inspired by Jimi. His final album was titled “Electric Ladyland” that included the song “All Along the Watchtower” written by Bob Dylan. You can see the painting of his eyes above the entrance.
Jimi Hendrix had he talent he had without being arrogant and extroverted. He was in it for the music and that was it. He created art and music in such a unique way. He was incredibly successful even when society was at it’s worst with racism and oppression. He inspired so many artist and taught people about freedom, individuality, and passion without ulterior motives. Jimi left a huge mark on music and the legacy he left on rock will always be significant and that is why I think he will forever be important in history.