Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Story of Jimi Hendrix

A Short Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Andre Sanchez

Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain: 25 years apart and from the same part of the world. Different deaths, but related nonetheless. There must be something about the North East of the USA, but at least it gave us two brilliant performers, although there is no doubt in most people's mind who was the true genius of the two.

However, this is about the greater of the two, and Cobain's name was mentioned only to express wonder about how this part of the USA should produce two great personalities that died before their time, and perhaps while their horizons were, in their own eyes only, on the wane.

Johnny Allen Hendrix, was born in Seattle on 27th November, 1942, and had his name changed by his father on returning from the war to James Marshall Hendrix after James's uncle Leon Marshall Hendrix. His childhood was an unstable and deprived one, and he both suffered neglect and lived in welfare care for a while. Jimi practiced guitar on an unstringed broomstick and a one stringed ukulele, and although he paid $5 for his first acoustic guitar his first real guitar was a white Supro Ozark that his father bought him when he realized his son was serious about learning guitar.

He had no amp, but that did not deter him. He learned by watching others and listening to records, and was initially influenced by his father's Muddy Waters and BB King records so unsurprisingly stared his guitar playing life with the blues. He was a totally extrovert player, and his showing off with electrifying guitar playing actually upset a lot of people, and got him fired from his first band.

From there on he went from band to band, and after serving as a paratrooper in the army, he worked as a session guitarist backing such rock legends as Little Richard, the Isley Brothers and Sam Cooke. It was after he allowed Chas Chandler, formerly of the Animals, to be his manager that his career kicked off big style. Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) girl friend, Linda Keith, had told Chas about Jimi's electrifying playing, and he was persuaded to go to London UK. That was when Chas Chandler changed s name to Jimi, and formed the band the Jimi Hendrix Experience with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.

London was the ideal place at time for an up and coming pop star of Jimi's type, and the band blasted the charts with its first single 'Hey Joe'. After following The Who at that fabulous pop festival at Monterey (were you there?) in 1967 and sent the crowd wild by trashing his guitar with fire on stage the band released their first album "Are You Experienced" and Jimi was a star.

The Experience's most successful album. 'Electric Ladyland' was released in 1968 after Chas Chandler left as manager, and his leaving was the beginning of the end. Drugs and hangers-on crowding the studios led eventually to the end of the band and Jimi formed another band he Gypsies, Sun and Rainbows for a short time: their only gig was Woodstock, 1969, where his version of 'The Star Spangled Banner' was electrifying, but also his last great public performance.

Drugs were catching up, and his last album was "Cry of Love" also featured Billy Cox of gypsies, and Mitch Mitchell who had been with Jimi since the Experience days. On 17th September 1970, he took some sleeping pills belonging to his girlfriend, Monica Denneman. He had an apparent allergic reaction to them, and threw up sometime during the night and drowned on his vomit. He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead. An inauspicious end to a great musician at the age of 27.

Jimi Hendrix was known for his electrifying solos work, and his use of his teeth and playing behind his back. These have been described as gimmicks, and perhaps they were, but they were gimmicks that nobody else had thought of using live and on TV. He has yet to be emulated and everybody knows of Jimi Hendrix.

His use of designed feedback was pioneering and his branded trademark. Nobody sounded like him, and nobody has done since. You know it's Jimi playing from the that first unique note.

Those of us fortunate enough to see him play live will never forget his dynamic personality and superb guitar skills, and his name and work will live forever. On that day in September 1970 a true genius was lost and the music world was the worse for it.

Jimi Hendrix may not have been the best pure guitarist, even in his own time, but no one has yet approached him in his personality, dynamism and on-stage presence and it is doubtful now if anybody ever will.

If reading his story has inspired you to learn to play the guitar, I highly recommend you try, their online video lessons are excellent.

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