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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
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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One of all-time favorite artists. RIP Jimi Hendrix.
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Love you Jimi baby, I leave this town with you...I hear that train a comin...come and get me...just love hearing these songs again
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Cin
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Jimi is the s**t
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WITHOUT A DOUBT IN THE TOP< TEN GUITAREST EVER, WITH JEFF BECK, ERIC CLAPTON, FRANK ZAPPA, YES ZAPPA, CHECK OUT SHUT UP AND PLAY YOUR GUITAR, FILL OUT THE REST OF THE LIST ON YOUR OWN
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Somewhere a queen is weeping~~~
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Move over rover and let Jimi take over
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masteryodaam i
One of my favorite quotes is from Jimi: I don't give a f**k if you boo, just boo in tune
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Fly on ~ little wing~~
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Love the way Sting sing this as well~~O~~~~~ ~
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He was so good he made all of his seem so easy
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Great guitarists never get old. That's why I miss Jimi. He still would have been great.
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Elo
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What
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I'm agnostic but if there is a greater it's definitely Jimi Hendrix
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What about Chris Squire... One of the best ( of the bests)~~ RIP Mr Squire~~
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True... They're gone but their music lives in~~~ fly on little wing~~~
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Top 5 Tragic Rock Deaths (in order of importance):
1. John Lennon
2. Jimi Hendrix
3. Buddy Holly
4. Duane Allman
5. Eric Clapton (technically he's not dead - just went tits up after Derrick and the Dominoes. I mean Delaney and Bonnie, seriuosly??? )
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Yes, I've seen a video of him playing with his teeth.
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Top 5 guitarist ever
1 Jimi Hendrix
2 Eric Clapton
3 Jimmy Page
4 Duane Allman
5 B.B King
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Is it true he can play the guitar with his teeth?
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I JUST LOVE THAT SONG JIM DID CALLED LITTLE WING!
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THERES JUST GOT'S 2 B A ROCK-N- ROLL HEAVEN!! GOD CREATED ROCK N ROLL I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUTM IT YOU KNOW, AS JIMI MIGHT HAVE SAID CAN YOU DIG IT?
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DID U KNOW jiMI HENDRIX'S REAL NAME WAS JOHN,HE WAS SO POOR WHEN YOUNG HE PRACTICED WITHN A BROOM BACKWARDS & UPSIDE DOWN,. IF HE WAS ALIVE TODAY I BET THEY WOULD TAG SOME KIND OF NAME ON HIMLIKE DISLEXIC HE WAS AWESOME GUTAIR PLAYER. PAWN HIS GUTIAR ALOT IF THEY WANTED HIM THEY HAVE TO PAY 4 HIS START 2 GET OF PAWN HOPE WE MEET IN HEAVEN! MARIA F.
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jIMI HENDRIX iS TTHEN BEST GUTIARIST OF ALL TIME SAYS ROLLING STONES MAGIZINE (DOES ANYONE READ THAT ANYMORE?) THE DEC. ISSUE 2012 TOP 50 GUTIARIST OF ALL TIME JIMI HENDRIX IS NUMBER 1 THEN COMES ERIC CLAPTON & 3RD IS jIMMY PAGE OF LED ZEP. DID HE SELL HIS SOUL TO THE DEVIL? TO HAVE MONEY AND FAME? HE WAS WITH THE OCCULT,&HE DID BUY ALEX CROWLEY'S MANTION(A MAN THAT CLAIM TO BE THEN MOST EVIL MAN THAT EVER LIVED!) REMEMBER (OZZY OSBORNE)WROT E THAT SONG MR. CROWELY DID U TA LK 2 THE DEAD?
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First time I have hear Let the good times roll Yes roll
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Fantastic artist one of the best of all time.
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I own a Jimi Hendrix longboard
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I wonder how many people could do what he did in 4 years
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jamieb12871
IMAGINE YHAT JAMM...P.s.. . . s o r r y Ed(VH)
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jamieb12871
1 of the best intro's ever...then Randy ...then Eddie ...THEN S R V ...THEN
..DARRELL!!!
W E. N E E D. A. NEW. G U I T A R. GOD.
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One of the best of blues rock
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For this young Aussie Boy back in the late 60's, Jimi was something out of this world and still is. Thanks Jimi.
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Janie Hendrix is a whore. She met Jimi maybe 3 x's and Leon Hendrix is cut out of the estate.
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No doubt , but maybe my vote shouldn't count because I'm partial. I grew up with this guy I was listening to him playing at the time when he was 14 years old and it is really been cool if he would've lived longer than it would've silenced everything all the critics everybody would've known how great he was or should I say how great he is. Seattles favorite son
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As an aside, I think he and Stevie Ray may have had a chat:-)
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Jimi, the greatest? Who really knows? The master of the strat, hell yeah. What I do know ,this guy made music that echoed in my soul then and still does.
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dragonlady60 8 8
Jimi....what can I say...RIP
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Best music ever!
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God Bless this phenomenal guitarist.. He was one-of a-kind.. and he was before my days!!
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Simply to this day the greatest guitarist to grace this realm and planet nothing but existing
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kissed da sky
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I wish I could have played just 1 song with you
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,BEST GUITARIST IN HISTORY
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RIP Jimi
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The best guitarist ever.
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HE is a bad a** that man can play the blue. I wish I could meet him.
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thank his family for releasing all of these great tunes ��
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he is still the greatest ����
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Best, most influential guitarist ever--that coming from an old 60's "hippie" music lover who has heard Jimi's style carry on to so many guitarists over the past 40-plus years. If that isn't a testimony to Jimi's greatness, I don't know what is.
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