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Jimi Hendrix: The God Himself

Without a doubt, the most famous member of the infamous "27 Club" is Jimi Hendrix. The guitar God transformed what it meant to be a guitarist.

Jimi Hendrix on stage at the Newport Pop Festival, 1969

The Life of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was born on November 27th, 1942 in Seattle, Washington. Hendrix was born to parents, Lucille Jeter and Allen Hendrix, both of whom were of African American and Cherokee descent. During WWII, Allen was drafted to serve in the US Army but was forced to leave for basic training before Jimi was born. During the first three years of Jimi’s life, his father was not afforded the right to see his son, as a result, Lucille was forced to raise their son alone, with the help of friends and family. In his youth, Jimi Hendrix was a shy boy and was often left to care for his younger brother Leon while both were in and out of foster care. In 1958, Lucille died from liver disease and his father refused to take Jimi and Leon to the funeral, instead, Allen gave them shots of whiskey and told them that this is how men deal with their problems. This moment had a great impact on Hendrix, who carried these scars for the rest of his life.

In school, Hendrix constantly wanted a guitar but his school was underfunded and his father refused to buy him one. However, by mid-1958, Hendrix had bought his first guitar (an acoustic) for $5 and listened to blues artists, practicing for hours and trying to replicate the record. In 1961, Hendrix was arrested for stealing a car and was forced to chose jail time or enlist in the Army—he chose military service. At basic training, he was constantly playing his guitar and shaking off his duties and was eventually discharged. With the help of a friend he moved to Nashville to improve his musical career. Hendrix felt he had achieved limited success in America and joined up with Chas Chandler (former bass player for The Animals), who would become his producer, and traveled to England to set up a group. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed and achieved rock God status across the world, however, this fame had manifested an intense amount of pressure on Hendrix, who soon found himself exhausted and relying more heavily on drugs. Being tied into contracts previously agreed to in the US, Hendrix returned to the US after achieving success in England to play Woodstock, the Monterey Pop Festival, and the Newport Pop festival. Hendrix found that his home was now in Europe, to where he returned in 1970. Jimi Hendrix died shortly after returning to England on September 17th, 1970, due to aspirating on his own vomit after having taken 18 times the recommended dose of his girlfriend's sleeping pills.

Jimi's Style of Music

Jimi playing with his tongue as a member of The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix’s musical style was firmly rooted in the blues as well as rhythm and blues that he was exposed to as a youth. He had adopted may eccentric ways of playing his guitar through his idols like T-Bone Walker (playing guitar with his teeth/tongue and playing behind his back). However, Hendrix transcends any one style of music because his artistic abilities were so creative that he was, essentially, creating new styles of music as he went. His ability to achieve the right tone from his guitar was revolutionary, while his incorporation of such effects like wah-wah, feedback, and distortion was innovative. His technique allowed him to utilize the amplifier as an extension of his instrument, rather than simply a way to project his guitar sound. Hendrix gained the ability to play rhythm guitar and lead guitar at the same time, achieving a skill that few other guitarists could muster.

Jimi's Equipment

Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival, 1967

Jimi Hendrix used countless guitars throughout his career, some of which he smashed, some of which he burned, and some of which he played with his teeth. Throughout his career, he has extensively used Fender guitars including a series of 1968 Stratocasters, a Duo-Sonic Electric Guitar, a Gibson Flying V, as well as a variety of acoustic guitars including an Epiphone FT-79 Texan, a Martin D-45, and a Tony Zemaitis 12-string guitar. He used a variety of amplifiers in his career, his main concern with an amp was whether it had the capacity to handle his overdriven high-powered guitar technique. Hendrix used effects pedals extensively, a variety of fuzz pedals, a Vox wah-wah pedal, Octavia pedals, and more.

My Opinions on Jimi

Jimi Hendrix is THE best guitarist there has ever been. He was able to blend sounds of the blues, rock & roll, funk, jazz, and so many more styles and that's what made Jimi Hendrix so popular. His incredible feel of the music was what made him so important in the evolution of the guitar, Rock 'n' Roll, and in music in general. In his life, he was the most sought-after guitar player in the world, because of his versatility and ability to create a melody or riff and then flesh it out into a full-blown epic guitar solo. Rolling Stone Magazine placed Jimi Hendrix at number one on their list of all-time greatest guitarists. Hendrix was a virtuoso guitar player, the likes of which had never been seen and likely never will be seen again. In November 1966, Hendrix played a show in London to a stunned crowd, which included rock & roll greats such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend; the greatest guitarists of their time. Hendrix blew them all away with his masterful guitar playing and continues to blow away and influence all musicians, to this day.

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