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Jimi Hendrix

In his brief four-year reign as a superstar, Jimi Hendrix expanded the vocabulary of the electric rock guitar more than anyone before or since. Hendrix was a master at coaxing all manner of unforeseen sonics from his instrument, often with innovative amplification experiments that produced astral-quality feedback and roaring distortion. His frequent hurricane blasts of noise and dazzling showmanship -- he could and would play behind his back and with his teeth and set his guitar on fire -- has sometimes obscured his considerable gifts as a songwriter, singer, and master of a gamut of blues, R&B, and rock styles.

When Hendrix became an international superstar in 1967, it seemed as if he'd dropped out of a Martian spaceship, but in fact he'd served his apprenticeship the long, mundane way in numerous R&B acts on the chitlin circuit. During the early and mid-'60s, he worked with such R&B/soul greats as Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, and King Curtis as a backup guitarist. Occasionally he recorded as a session man (the Isley Brothers' 1964 single "Testify" is the only one of these early tracks that offers even a glimpse of his future genius). But the stars didn't appreciate his show-stealing showmanship, and Hendrix was straitjacketed by sideman roles that didn't allow him to develop as a soloist. The logical step was for Hendrix to go out on his own, which he did in New York in the mid-'60s, playing with various musicians in local clubs, and joining white blues-rock singer John Hammond, Jr.'s band for a while.

It was in a New York club that Hendrix was spotted by Animals bassist Chas Chandler. The first lineup of the Animals was about to split, and Chandler, looking to move into management, convinced Hendrix to move to London and record as a solo act in England. There a group was built around Jimi, also featuring Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass, that was dubbed the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The trio became stars with astonishing speed in the U.K., where "Hey Joe," "Purple Haze," and "The Wind Cries Mary" all made the Top Ten in the first half of 1967. These tracks were also featured on their debut album, Are You Experienced, a psychedelic meisterwerk that became a huge hit in the U.S. after Hendrix created a sensation at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967.

Are You Experienced was an astonishing debut, particularly from a young R&B veteran who had rarely sung, and apparently never written his own material, before the Experience formed. What caught most people's attention at first was his virtuosic guitar playing, which employed an arsenal of devices, including wah-wah pedals, buzzing feedback solos, crunching distorted riffs, and lightning, liquid runs up and down the scales. But Hendrix was also a first-rate songwriter, melding cosmic imagery with some surprisingly pop-savvy hooks and tender sentiments. He was also an excellent blues interpreter and passionate, engaging singer (although his gruff, throaty vocal pipes were not nearly as great assets as his instrumental skills). Are You Experienced was psychedelia at its most eclectic, synthesizing mod pop, soul, R&B, Dylan, and the electric guitar innovations of British pioneers like Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, and Eric Clapton.

Amazingly, Hendrix would only record three fully conceived studio albums in his lifetime. Axis: Bold as Love and the double-LP Electric Ladyland were more diffuse and experimental than Are You Experienced On Electric Ladyland in particular, Hendrix pioneered the use of the studio itself as a recording instrument, manipulating electronics and devising overdub techniques (with the help of engineer Eddie Kramer in particular) to plot uncharted sonic territory. Not that these albums were perfect, as impressive as they were; the instrumental breaks could meander, and Hendrix's songwriting was occasionally half-baked, never matching the consistency of Are You Experienced (although he exercised greater creative control over the later albums).

The final two years of Hendrix's life were turbulent ones musically, financially, and personally. He was embroiled in enough complicated management and record company disputes (some dating from ill-advised contracts he'd signed before the Experience formed) to keep the lawyers busy for years. He disbanded the Experience in 1969, forming the Band of Gypsies with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox to pursue funkier directions. He closed Woodstock with a sprawling, shaky set, redeemed by his famous machine-gun interpretation of "The Star Spangled Banner." The rhythm section of Mitchell and Redding were underrated keys to Jimi's best work, and the Band of Gypsies ultimately couldn't measure up to the same standard, although Hendrix did record an erratic live album with them. In early 1970, the Experience re-formed again -- and disbanded again shortly afterward. At the same time, Hendrix felt torn in many directions by various fellow musicians, record-company expectations, and management pressures, all of whom had their own ideas of what Hendrix should be doing. Coming up on two years after Electric Ladyland, a new studio album had yet to appear, although Hendrix was recording constantly during the period.

While outside parties did contribute to bogging down Hendrix's studio work, it also seems likely that Jimi himself was partly responsible for the stalemate, unable to form a permanent lineup of musicians, unable to decide what musical direction to pursue, unable to bring himself to complete another album despite jamming endlessly. A few months into 1970, Mitchell -- Hendrix's most valuable musical collaborator -- came back into the fold, replacing Miles in the drum chair, although Cox stayed in place. It was this trio that toured the world during Hendrix's final months.

It's extremely difficult to separate the facts of Hendrix's life from rumors and speculation. Everyone who knew him well, or claimed to know him well, has different versions of his state of mind in 1970. Critics have variously mused that he was going to go into jazz, that he was going to get deeper into the blues, that he was going to continue doing what he was doing, or that he was too confused to know what he was doing at all. The same confusion holds true for his death: contradictory versions of his final days have been given by his closest acquaintances of the time. He'd been working intermittently on a new album, tentatively titled First Ray of the New Rising Sun, when he died in London on September 18, 1970, from drug-related complications.

Hendrix recorded a massive amount of unreleased studio material during his lifetime. Much of this (as well as entire live concerts) was issued posthumously; several of the live concerts were excellent, but the studio tapes have been the focus of enormous controversy for over 20 years. These initially came out in haphazard drabs and drubs (the first, The Cry of Love, was easily the most outstanding of the lot). In the mid-'70s, producer Alan Douglas took control of these projects, posthumously overdubbing many of Hendrix's tapes with additional parts by studio musicians. In the eyes of many Hendrix fans, this was sacrilege, destroying the integrity of the work of a musician known to exercise meticulous care over the final production of his studio recordings. Even as late as 1995, Douglas was having ex-Knack drummer Bruce Gary record new parts for the typically misbegotten compilation Voodoo Soup. After a lengthy legal dispute, the rights to Hendrix's estate, including all of his recordings, returned to Al Hendrix, the guitarist's father, in July of 1995.

With the help of Jimi's step-sister Janie, Al set up Experience Hendrix to begin to get Jimi's legacy in order. They began by hiring John McDermott and Jimi's original engineer, Eddie Kramer to oversee the remastering process. They were able to find all the original master tapes, which had never been used for previous CD releases, and in April of 1997, Hendrix's first three albums were reissued with drastically improved sound. Accompanying those reissues was a posthumous compilation album (based on Jimi's handwritten track listings) called First Rays of the New Rising Sun, made up of tracks from the Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge and War Heroes.

Later in 1997, another compilation called South Saturn Delta showed up, collecting more tracks from posthumous LPs like Crash Landing, War Heroes, and Rainbow Bridge (without the terrible '70s overdubs), along with a handful of never-before-heard material that Chas Chandler had withheld from Alan Douglas for all those years.

More archival material followed; Radio One was basically expanded to the two-disc BBC Sessions (released in 1998), and 1999 saw the release of the full show from Woodstock as well as additional concert recordings from the Band of Gypsies shows entitled Live at the Fillmore East. 2000 saw the release of the Jimi Hendrix Experience four-disc box set, which compiled remaining tracks from In the West, Crash Landing and Rainbow Bridge along with more rarities and alternates from the Chandler cache.

The family also launched Dagger Records, essentially an authorized bootleg label to supply hardcore Hendrix fans with material that would be of limited commercial appeal. Dagger released several live concerts (of shows in Oakland, Ottawa, Clark University in Massachusetts, Paris, San Francisco, Woburn in Bedfordshire, and Cologne) and a collection of studio jams and demos called Morning Symphony Ideas.

Mainstream Hendrix reissue activity continued during the 2000s and 2010s, spotlighted by major live albums originally recorded at the Isle of Wight (2002), Berkeley (2003), Monterey (2007), Winterland (2011), and the Miami Pop Festival (2013). In 2010, Sony issued a four-disc set titled West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, which offered a full disc of recordings from Hendrix's time as a backing guitarist. ~ Richie Unterberger & Sean Westergaard, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Moo moo says lies
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Voodoo child ... badessttt guitarist mofo eveeeer.. yessssir.
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U gotta listen to jimi..
Not hear him. One of my fav artist of all times. Wow..
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Rust Cooley is better
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Jimmi's father did my great aunt's lawn weekly.
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Love Jimi Hendrix!
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Moomoo Elvis took drugs, 1d takes drugs (or at least zayn and louis), justin bieber takes drugs, Miley Cyrus, etc..
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Right what the troll wanted
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vettez06505
Hey MooMoo go.listen.to the dbag music f today aka Justin Bieber and Adam Levine and all the whiny p*say music more like crap not music James F'n Marshall Hendrix is real music and always will be he's better of in heaven cause its hell down here when it comes to music.
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So Moo Moo every band u listen to r Drug free yeah right would u like to buy some beach front property n Colorado
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blessed966
MooMoo, are you suggesting that kids who ODd
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Jimi made doing drugs cool. Think of all the kids who died trying to be just like him. There's blood on his hands. I for one want kids to live. You guys are sick for supporting this man and his flagrant drug use!
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Moomoo...wha t kinda name is that.
The only good thing about hippies was the greatest musical revelation of all time.
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mseronello85
To each their own. In my book, he was and still is the best I've heard to date. I'm a guitarist, big deal, that's spent nearly my entire life (trying) copying every song and note. On nights I get it right, it's like an out of body "experience" . Thanks for the life of lessons Jimi. Btw-nobody ever got kicked out the band for playing JH.
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pesan1994
MooMoo your a dip s**t ;)
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Only good thing about hippies is they eventually OD and die.
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Listening to 'Mannish Boy' right now, and I can hear Jimi's influence on bands today like The Black Keys.
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Moomoo007 you are an ignorant fat piece of leftover semen that your mother couldn't push out. You like the black keys so much and new music. They wouldn't exist without the hippie music. You should stop listening to music because you have no taste.
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r.metz21
��
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I can't believe that two people left debased comments about the best guitar player ever. They be daft.
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Is everyone sure the name is correct? I think it is Voodo Child
Blues, Machiaventa
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moo-moo sucks
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Legend
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Glad to hear something off Valleys of Neptune. I think Jimi played Sunshine of Your Love better than Eric Clapton.
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alabastervil l i s 0
oh holy snickers in basket sent to a boston cream pie! who in the hello would dare to play a drug fueled acid bandana wearing fool hippie who thinks he can play music on my beloved metal station? id rather listen to the brady bunch then to endure this trash. he wasnt the best, he wasnt the greatest. he was just there.
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Wayne's World!
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Yeah
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reaper.1976. a l
All along the watch tower is really the best thanx, jimi, rip
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Immortal...
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He is the greatest guitar player of all time, even better than Eric Clapton, but are the best guitarists.
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Yahh, let Jimi takeover
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A legend in his own time. One of the most prolific guitarist/ musicians of his generation. He man was a genius!
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Eat shot big
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Rest In Peace...Jame s Marshall Hendrix...Go n e But Never 4GOTTEN...Ur Music Will Live On 4Ever...Rock e r s Don't Die We Multiply...P e a c e From Tuscon, Az...✌
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The last 2:00 minutes of this song enough said Fire is all I can say
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His guitar was talking head is on fire rite now #Hot fingers get um jimi get um
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Only the good die young
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Good ol Jimi....... No one can pick a guitar like him.
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This song rocks!
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One of my favs is machine gun live
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Catcav your soooo lucky
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Got Jimmy tattooed on my chest
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won tickets to jimmy's Houston texas concert by naming the song CASTLES OF SAND on a radio show one nite. that was my first concert, front row seats. he tore up the stage and the cops hauled him off stage I believe it was 1965 can't remember exactly; I was under the purple haze. Ely Barnes
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Jimi Hendrix was way ahead of his time...RIP!
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kittingerwen d y
Watch tower luv it
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A left handed upside down Guitar playing Genius.....
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I wish Jimi would've stayed around longer. Wonder how music would've been then
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Omg��
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himtnman4
ha Angle loive ya
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Jimi you still touch me in places of my body that no others has touch. Miss you man.
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