The classic line-up of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, from left to right: Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix.
"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky.
, source of the most famous mondegreen
of all time
James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970) was an American musician and is widely regarded as one of, if not the
best electric guitarist of all time. After playing in back-up bands for artists like Little Richard and the Isley Brothers
, he was discovered and managed by Chas Chandler
, who took him to London and made him a star as the lead singer and guitarist of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Which included Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell). First achieving success in England, his American breakthrough was at 1967's Monterey Pop Festival, where he managed to upstage The Who
having destroyed their instruments by setting his guitar on fire
. After the classic line-up of the Experience broke up, Hendrix formed Gypsy Sun And Rainbows (Which included Billy Cox, Mitch Mitchell, Larry Lee, Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez), which played at the legendary 1969 Woodstock
festival, where Hendrix's apocalyptic performance of ''The Star Spangled Banner''
pretty much revived a very tired crowd. This band didn't last long after Woodstock, and was succeed by the Band Of Gypsys (which included Billy Cox and Buddy Miles). They broke up after two memorable gigs and a self-titled live album, after which Hendrix re-formed the Experience with Mitchell (Billy Cox replacing Noel Redding) in time for the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival. Died early at the age of 27
of choking on his vomit due to alcohol and drug overdose, the second (only a few months after Brian Jones
) of several prominent rock artists to die at that age (although his blues roots have led some to say that he merely moved the curse from blues to rock, as the legendary Robert Johnson
had died at 27, too).
Hendrix was highly influenced by blues, jazz, R&B and soul music; his amazing rhythm playing stemmed from his desire to make his guitar sound like an entire R&B backing band with horn section. In turn he codified
techniques and trends many other bands and artists had used, such as amplified feedback (done before by others, but Hendrix almost literally turned it Up to Eleven
), creative use of electronic effects and extended improvisations. Although he arrived in London at a time when there was an entire generation of impressive guitarists
reaching the peak of their powers, his peers were pretty quick to acknowledge him as The Ace
: Pete Townshend
recalled feeling sorry for Eric Clapton
in that Clapton wanted to be able to play like Hendrix, but couldn't, whereas Townshend was glad that he himself 'never had any sense that I could even come close'. (The great guitarist Larry Coryell once attempted to beat Hendrix in a cutting contest
; according to eyewitnesses, Hendrix blew him off the stage with a single note
.) Although some credit The Beatles
' song "Helter Skelter" and Steppenwolf
's "Born to Be Wild" with helping start the Heavy Metal
genre, many credit Hendrix as the artist who really set that ball in motion.
Hendrix's musicianship, his experimental albums that did not stay strictly in one genre of music, and his aforementioned outrageous stage theatrics earned him enough of a reputation to make him one of the most prominent rock performers of the late 60s. Not for nothing was he selected as Woodstock's last artist to perform, after all. Ironically, this popularity wasn't quite reflected on radio in his lifetime, as related in a documentary produced after his death. Black radio, at the time entrenched in the likes of Aretha Franklin
, James Brown
and the roster of Motown Records amongst other, more straightforward rhythm and blues artists, wanted little to do with his heavy rock guitar sound. And many white rock radio stations, places one might have thought would be a more natural home for his songs, simply thought he sounded "too black." Contrasting this with his frequently standing-room only crowds says a lot about the tastes of radio programmers compared to their audiences.
While many today mention him as the most influential guitarist of the era, his reputation was only consolidated after his death
; his friend and rival Eric Clapton commemorated him with a cover version of Hendrix's song "Little Wing". Nevertheless, many guitarists who came after him were indeed influenced by both his work and his on-stage theatrics, including Ernie Isley, a latter-day member of the Isley Brothers, the same group Jimi used to play back-up for. His most conspicuous if not most profound legacy is to have inspired generations of metal
guitarists, although bizarrely enough, Eddie Van Halen
, the most Hendrixoid of them all, claims that his greatest influence was Clapton. At the time of Hendrix's death, he had plans to record with Miles Davis
and to study music in more depth, possibly performing less and composing more; although it's sad to think of what was lost, Hendrix's expressive playing and extraordinary musical imagination continue to inspire musicians in all fields of music.
Two of his most famous performances are "Purple Haze" and his cover of the Bob Dylan
classic "All Along The Watchtower".
Principal Members (Founding members in bold):
- Billy Cox - bass, vocals (1969-1970)
- Jimi Hendrix - guitar, lead vocals, piano, recorder, percussion, kazoo, harpsichord, bass (1966-1970, died 1970)
- Larry Lee - guitar, lead vocals (1969, died 2007)
- Buddy Miles - drums, lead vocals (1968, 1969-1970, died 2008)
- Mitch Mitchell - drums, backing and co-lead vocals, percussion, glockenspiel (1966-1969, 1970, died 2008)
- Noel Redding - bass, backing and lead vocals, guitar (1966-1969, died 2003)
- Juma Sultan - percussion (1969)
- Jerry Velez - percussion (1969)
Studio and Live Discography (* = The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ** = Band Of Gypsys):
Posthumous Studio Discography:
- 1971 - The Cry of Love
- 1971 - Rainbow Bridge
- 1972 - War Heroes
- 1974 - Loose Ends
- 1975 - Crash Landing
- 1975 - Midnight Lightning
- 1980 - Nine To The Universe
- 1995 - Voodoo Soup
- 1997 - South Saturn Delta
- 1997 - First Rays Of The New Rising Sun
- 2000 - Morning Symphony Ideas
- 2004 - Hear My Music
- 2006 - Burning Desire
- 2010 - Valleys Of Neptune
- 2013 - People, Hell and Angels
Posthumous Live Discography (* = The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ** = Gypsy Sun And Rainbows, *** = Band Of Gypsys. All tracks recorded from 1966 to 1970):
- 1971 - Experience*
- 1971 - Isle Of Wight*
- 1972 - Hendrix In The West*
- 1972 - More Experience*
- 1982 - The Jimi Hendrix Concerts*
- 1986 - Johnny B. Goode*
- 1986 - Band Of Gypsys 2* ***
- 1987 - Live At Winterland*
- 1988 - Radio One*
- 1991 - Stages*
- 1998 - Live At The Oakland Coliseum*
- 1998 - BBC Sessions*
- 1999 - Live At The Fillmore East***
- 1999 - Live At Woodstock**
- 1999 - Live At Clark University*
- 2001 - Live In Ottawa*
- 2002 - The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions***
- 2002 - Blue Wild Angel: Live At The Isle of Wight*
- 2003 - Paris 1967/San Francisco 1968*
- 2003 - Live At Berkeley*
- 2005 - Live At The Isle of Fehmarn
- 2007 - Live At Monterey*
- 2008 - Live In Paris & Ottawa 1968*
- 2009 - Live At Woburn*
- 2011 - Winterland*
- 2013 - Miami Pop Festival*
- 1966 - Hey Joe note
- Stone Free as the UK B-side
- 51st Anniversary as the US B-side note
- 1967 - Purple Haze note
- 51st Anniversary as the UK B-side
- The Wind Cries Mary as the US B-side note
- 1967 - The Wind Cries Mary note
- Highway Chile as the B-side
- 1967 - Burning Of The Midnight Lamp note
- The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice as the B-side
"Excuse me while I kiss the tropes!":
- The Ace: As evidenced by the bio at the top of the page.
- Afraid of Needles: And very much so. It saved him from heroin, but not from barbiturates.
- All Guitars Are Stratocasters: Hendrix did play other guitars from time to time, but he preferred Strats for their versatility.
- Atlantis: Mentioned in "1983...(And A Merman I Should Turn To Be)"
- Ancient Astronauts: "Up From the Skies", sung from the perspective of an alien visitor to Earth ("this here people farm") who had been here before thousands of years ago during an ice age, and has come back to observe how things have changed.
- And You Thought It Would Fail: In Universe example with "the machine" in "1983...(And I Merman I Should Turn To Be)"
- Badass Boast: "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"
Well I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
- The Charmer: Although he was an interestingly quiet variation, Hendrix was legendary for this, to the point that other musicians were afraid to introduce their girlfriends to him.
- Cover Version: Many, among the most notable being Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", The Troggs' "Wild Thing", John Stafford Smith's "The Star-Spangled Banner", Earl King's "Come On", Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", and Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" and "Like a Rolling Stone".
- Covered Up: Bob Dylan himself said that when he first heard Jimi's cover of "All Along The Watchtower", it was so perfectly played that Bob Dylan thought it was a Jimi-song, and he even prefers Jimi's version over his own original!
- "Hey Joe" was a cover of a song written by Billy Roberts. The earliest known version was recorded by The Leaves.
- Dead Artists Are Better: After his death in 1970, Jimi's reputation changed from being a popular guitarist to one of the great legends of Rock.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Hendrix was famous for using his guitar for visual innuendos when performing.
- Epic Rocking: "Machine Gun", among others.
- Friendly Rival: To Eric Clapton.
- Genre-Busting: As a black bandleader with (frequently) white sidemen, schooled in blues and R&B and soul but playing rock and constantly reinventing his own music, Hendrix's entire career was about this.
- George Lucas Altered Version: Voodoo Soup, compiled after his death by producer Allan Douglas, features newly recorded instrumentation by drummer Bruce Gary, who Hendrix never met or performed with, and whose most famous band, The Knack, was formed years after Hendrix had died. Voodoo Soup was intended as a "official" version of Hendrix' never-completed First Rays of the New Rising Sun album. Later, the Hendrix family presented a different reconstruction of that album, using the most complete recordings of the songs intended for the album, to avoid making decisions that Hendrix may not have approved of, in sharp contrast to Douglas, who believed that he was completing the album as Hendrix had intended with Voodoo Soup.
- Gratuitous Panning
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Actually he was, but he had a slightly irrational belief that left-handed guitars would be less well-made than right-handed guitars, so he reversed the strings on a Stratocaster and played it upside down. See the page image. The result meant that he didn't sound quite like anyone else.
- At least one biography claims that Jimi was actually ambidextrous, while slightly more southpaw.
- Another claim states that he played upside-down righty guitars instead of lefty guitars so the dials and whammy bar would be easier to reach.
- Iconic Outfit: The 'fro and headband.
- Improv: Hendrix was a master of it.
- Incendiary Exponent: Smashing guitars not shocking enough? Try setting them on fire first!
- I Thought It Meant: Hendrix had mentioned to Track Records that he wanted the cover of Axis: Bold as Love to reflect his "Indian" (read: Native American) heritage. Whoever got put in charge of making the cover completely misunderstood the request, and the album came out with a kitschy take on Indian (read: subcontinent) religious imagery on the cover.
- It's Raining Men: Before he became a professional musician, Hendrix served in the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper. He never saw combat and wasn't exactly a great soldier, but it contributed a lot to his popularity among American troops in The Vietnam War.
- Last Chorus Slow Down: Noticeable in "Voodoo Child".
- Lyrical Dissonance
- Mixed Ancestry: Hendrix had Cherokee heritage from his mother and Black heritage from his father.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Ranging from 2 (Castles Made Of Sand) up to 5 (Purple Haze, Cross Town Traffic), an unusually broad range especially for the period. Pretty much any later music in the range of 5-7 owes Jim Hendrix a debt for opening these levels up to widespread use.
- Murder Ballad: "Hey Joe"
- Music of Note: Hendrix's reputation has steadily grown since his death, to the point where he now routinely tops polls of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.
- Now That's Using Your Teeth: Using them to play guitar!
- Precursor: "Up From the Skies", perhaps.
- Rated M for Manly: As Bill Hicks once put it...
"This guy had a dick. Like an anaconda head, swinging in the wind."
- Refuge in Audacity: The original cover of Electric Ladyland was simply a large group of nude women (that's front and back cover). This cover somehow managed to survive being used in the UK, but the USA (and later CD) version of the album uses Karl Ferris' psychedelic portrait. Interestingly enough, none of these were approved by Hendrix: he had explicitly told his record label that for the cover he wanted a Linda McCartney photo of him with some children, but the label proceeded to ignore him and pick what ended up on the final product.
- Rockers Smash Guitars: Set them on fire, actually.
- The Rock Star:
- Rock Trio: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Run for the Border: "Hey Joe" ends with the title character planning to do this.
- Self-Deprecation / Deadpan Snarker: His onstage banter was filled with both. His liner notes on the back cover of Axis: Bold as Love said "Jimi Hendrix writes his own songs and almost sings them."
- Serious Business: His songs and likeness were the most difficult to license for Guitar Hero: World Tour, and part of the deal was that it would be impossible to use his characters to play songs he didn't sing. Even before then, the original Guitar Hero had a cover version of "Spanish Castle Magic" that had to be an instrumental, because even Jimi's voice is serious business to his estate. However, Hendrix was finally brought to the series in Lego Rock Band, with "Fire" appearing as it's full, original studio version with vocals and no sign of Jimi himself (Lego or otherwise) in sight. Later, the entire contents of "Axis: Bold as Love" album came to the Rock Band Music Store.
- "Crosstown Traffic" is in Rock Band 3 and more DLC kept coming. At this point, Harmonix has managed to include a huge chunk of his discography.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll (it eventually lead to his untimely death from an apparent drug overdose).
- Signature Sound Effect: Actually a Signature Chord: Hendrix loved the sound of the 7#9 chord and used it all over songs like "Purple Haze", "Stone Free", "Voodoo Chile" and his version of "Killing Floor", to the point where musicians sometimes refer to it as the "Hendrix chord".
- Something Blues: "Earth Blues", "Country Blues", "Catfish Blues" and "Slow Blues"
- The Southpaw: Actually contributed slightly to his sound. He frequently used a Fender Stratocaster, which has one of the pickups tilted. This gives each string a slightly different sound. As a lefty, however, Hendrix reversed the order of the strings, thereby reversing the order of the differences and giving his music a unique feel.
- Step Up to the Microphone: "She's So Fine" from Axis: Bold As Love has Noel Redding on lead vocals and "Little Miss Strange" from Electric Ladyland have Redding and Mitch Mitchell sharing lead vocals. Both songs are written by Redding.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Castles Made of Sand", "The Wind Cries Mary", "Angel", "Little Wing", "Bold as Love", "Drifting".
- Technician Versus Performer: Despite his clear technical skills, he was closer to the Performer end of the spectrum. Had virtually no formal musical training, could barely even read music, but was blessed with natural talent and near-perfect pitch - which was just as well since his playing style frequently made him go out of tune. (Nearly all live Hendrix albums feature him tuning up in mid-song.) Of course, all those years as a sideman in R&B bands didn't hurt.
- Textless Album Cover: Electric Ladyland
- The Unfair Sex: Defied in "Hey Joe"
"Huh yes I did I shot her
You know I caught my old lady messin' 'round town
And I gave her the gun
And I shot her"