Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942, Seattle, Washington – September 18, 1970, London, England) was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Hendrix is recognized as one of the most influential guitar players in rock music history. He achieved worldwide fame in 1967, after a monumental performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix later headlined in the iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival before his death in 1970, at the age of 27.
Hendrix was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6627 Hollywood Blvd.) was dedicated in 1994. In 2006, his debut album, Are You Experienced, was inducted into the United States National Recording Preservation Board's National Recording Registry. Rolling Stone magazine named Hendrix number one on their list of the "100 greatest guitarists of all time" in 2003 and ranked him number six in their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" in 2004.  He was also ranked number three in VH1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Artists."
On May 31, 1961, Hendrix entered the army in Fort Campbell, Kentucky but after one year he was discharged for "behavioral problems". In the army Hendrix met Billy Cox, and together moved to nearby Clarksville, Tennessee, where they formed a band called The King Casuals. The group toiled in low-paying gigs at obscure venues and eventually decided to moved to Nashville, Tennessee. There they played and lived in the clubs along Jefferson Street, which is the traditional heart of Nashville's black community and home to a lively rhythm and blues scene. In November 1962, Hendrix participated in his first studio session, where his wild but still undeveloped music compositions found him cut from the soundboard.
For the next three years Hendrix made a precarious living on the Chitlin Circuit. There he performed in black-oriented venues throughout the South with The King Casuals and other various backing bands for soul, R&B, and blues musicians. These bands included, Chuck Jackson, Slim Harpo, Tommy Tucker, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson.
In 1966, Hendrix formed his own band, the Jimmy James and The Blue Flames. The band was composed of various friends he casually met at Manny's Music Shop, this included a 15-year old runaway from California named Randy Wolfe. Wolfe later co-founded the band Spirit with drummer Ed Cassidy.
Hendrix and his new band quickly gained attention throughout New York City. Their favorite club and residency was at the Cafe Wha? on MacDougal Street in the West Village. During this period, Hendrix met and worked with a variety of musicians and song-writers at Cafe Wha?, including singer-guitarist Ellen McIlwaine and guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. It was at the Cafe where he also met musician Frank Zappa, who has been credited with introducing Hendrix to the revolutionary instrument, the wah-wah pedal.
Early in 1966, Hendrix met Chas Chandler, who had just ended his tenure as bassist in The Animals and was looking for talent to produce. Chandler convinced Hendrix to cover the folk song, "Hey Joe" and transform it into a rock song. Hendrix's impressive version convinced Chandler to sign Hendrix to a management and production contract with himself and ex-Animals manager Michael Jeffery. Chandler then helped Hendrix form a new band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with British musicians Noel Redding, a guitarist-turned-bassist, and Mitch Mitchell, a drummer.
After a number of European club performances, word of Hendrix spread through the London music community. Hendrix's showmanship and virtuosity made instant fans of reigning guitar heroes such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, as well as members of The Beatles and The Who, later The Who's managers signed Hendrix to the record label, Track Records.
Hendrix's first three singles were his version of "Hey Joe," "Purple Haze," and "The Wind Cries Mary," each song was a U.K. Top 10 hit. Hendrix was also making a big impression on stage, with fiery renditions of B.B. King's hit "Rock Me Baby," and an ultra-fast revision of Howlin Wolf's blues classic, "Killing Floor."
The first Jimi Hendrix Experience album contained no previous U.K. singles and was released in the U.K. on May 12, 1967 under the title, Are You Experienced. The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the only album that prevented Are You Experienced from reaching No. 1 on the U.K. charts.
During this time, the Experience extensively toured the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. This allowed Hendrix to develop his live performances, which climaxed on March 31, 1967, when he set his guitar on fire on stage. Rank Theater management warned Hendrix to "tone down" his stage act after the extensive damage that he caused to the stage equipment during his shows.
On June 4, 1967, the Experience played their last show in England before heading off to America, at London's Saville Theatre. Months later, Reprise Records released the U.S. version of Are You Experienced, and replaced "Red House," "Remember," and "Can You See Me" with the first three U.K. single A-sides. The U.K. album kicked off with "Foxy Lady," and the American album started with "Purple Haze." Both the albums offered a shocking opening track for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and demonstrated the new possibilities that the electric guitar is capable of.
Although quite popular in Europe, the Experience had yet to reach that same star status in America. Their chance came when Paul McCartney recommended the group to the organizers of the Monterey International Pop Festival. The show at the festival not only provided a large live audience but the documentary Monterey Pop, immortalized Hendrix's iconic burning and smashing of his guitar from his performance. The LP entitled "Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival: Otis Redding/The Jimi Hendrix Experience," was released in 1970, and featured four songs performed by Hendrix on side one. Following the festival, the Experience played a short-lived gig as the opening act for pop group The Monkees on their first American tour. However, the Monkees' teenage audience did not warm to Hendrix's outlandish stage act, and he abruptly quit the tour just after a few dates.
Meanwhile in England, Hendrix's wild-man image and musical gimmickry (such as playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back) continued to bring publicity. But Hendrix was already advancing musically and became frustrated by the media's concentration on his stage tricks and hit singles.
Hendrix began experimenting with different combinations of musicians, instruments, and electronic effects. For example, Dave Mason, Chris Wood, and Steve Winwood from the band Traffic, drummer Buddy Miles and former Dylan organist Al Kooper, among others, were all involved in recording sessions for the album, Electric Ladyland.
Chandler became exhausted at the number of times Hendrix would insist on re-recording particular tracks for the album—the song "Gypsy Eyes" was reportedly recorded 43 times. This was also frustrating for bassist Noel Redding, who would often leave the studio to calm himself, only to return and find that Hendrix had recorded the bass parts himself during Redding's absence.
Electric Ladyland includes a number of compositions and arrangements for which Hendrix is still remembered. These include "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" as well as Hendrix's rendition of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower." Hendrix's version includes one of the most highly praised guitar arrangements in rock music history.
Throughout the four years of his fame, Hendrix often appeared in impromptu jams with various musicians. One recording is of Hendrix playing in March 1968, at Steve Paul's Scene Club, with blues guitarist Johnny Winter followed by Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles. In the same recording Jim Morrison, lead singer for The Doors, grabbed an open microphone and contributed a growling, obscenity-laced vocal accompaniment. The band continued to play behind him, and Hendrix can be heard on the tape announcing Morrison's presence and offering him a better microphone. The recording is titled Morrison's Lament and has circulated among Hendrix and Doors collectors. Albums of the recording were sold under various titles (originally Sky High, then Woke Up this Morning), some falsely claiming the presence of Johnny Winter's band.
Noel Redding felt increasingly frustrated by the fact that he was not playing his original and favored instrument, the guitar. Redding was also increasingly uncomfortable with the hysteria surrounding Hendrix's performances. In 1968, Redding simultaneously formed another band, Fat Mattress, which would sometimes open for the Experience. Redding and Hendrix began to see less and less of each other, this had an effect in the studio with Hendrix playing many of the baselines for Electric Ladyland.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed for the last time in the U.K. at London's Royal Albert Hall on February 18 and February 24 1969 in two sold-out concerts. A Gold and Goldstein-produced film titled "Experience" was also recorded at these two shows, but as of 2007 still remains unreleased.
The last Experience concert in the U.S. took place on June 29, 1969, at Barry Fey's Denver Pop Festival, a three-day event held at Denver's Mile High Stadium that has been marked by rioting and tear gas. The three band–mates were smuggled out of the venue in the back of a rental truck that was later crushed by a mob of fans. The next day, Noel Redding announced that he was quitting the Experience.
Hendrix's popularity eventually saw him headline the Woodstock music festival on August 18, 1969. Although a number of the world's most talented and popular musicians were invited to the festival, including The Who, Santana, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix was considered to be the festival's main attraction. His band was given the top-billing position and scheduled to perform last on Sunday night. However, due to enormous delays caused by bad weather and other logistical problems, Hendrix did not appear on stage until Monday morning, by which time the audience, which had peaked at over 500,000 people, had been reduced to, at most, 180,000, many of whom merely waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving. Hendrix performed a two-hour set (the longest of his career) that was plagued with technical difficulties. Besides suffering microphone level and guitar tuning problems, it was also apparent that Jimi's new, much larger band had not rehearsed enough, and at times simply could not keep up with him. Despite this, Hendrix managed to deliver a historic performance, which featured his highly-regarded rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, a solo improvisation which some consider a defining moment of the 1960s.
Hendrix claimed that he did not intend for his performance of the national anthem to be a political statement, that he simply intended it as a different interpretation of the anthem. When taken to task on the Dick Cavett Show regarding the "unorthodox" nature of his performance of the song at Woodstock, Hendrix replied, "I thought it was beautiful," which was greeted with applause from the audience.
The band Hendrix appeared at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, with the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. Hendrix soon disbanded the group, but retained bassist Billy Cox. He added drummer Buddy Miles and formed a new trio—the Band of Gypsys. The group gelled quickly and produced a surprising amount of original material, including the lively "Earth Blues," which featured The Ronettes on background vocals. Four memorable concerts on New Year's Eve 1969-1970 held at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in New York. The performances captured several outstanding pieces, including one of Hendrix's greatest live performances—an explosive 12–minute rendition of his anti-war epic, Machine Gun. The release of the Band of Gypsys album—the only official live recording sanctioned by Hendrix—brought the end of the contract with Ed Chalpin in addition to legal battles.
The second and final Band of Gypsys appearance occurred one month later on January 28, 1970, at a twelve-act show in Madison Square Garden dubbed the Winter Festival for Peace. Set delays forced Hendrix to finally take the stage at 3 a.m., reportedly high on drugs and in no condition to perform. He snapped a vulgar response at a woman who shouted a request for "Foxy Lady" and played only halfway through his second song, then simply stopped playing, telling the audience, "That's what happens when earth f-cks with space—never forget that." He then proceeded to sit quietly on the stage until staffers escorted him away. Later, Buddy Miles claimed that manager Michael Jeffery dosed Hendrix with LSD in an effort to sabotage the current band and bring about a return for the original Experience lineup. Blues legend Johnny Winter said it was Hendrix's girlfriend Devon Wilson who spiked his drink with drugs for unknown reasons.
Manager Michael Jeffery's reaction to the botched Band of Gypsys show was swift and firm; he immediately fired Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, then rushed Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding over from England to begin to press for the upcoming tour dates as a reunited Jimi Hendrix Experience. Before the tour began, however, Jimi fired Redding from the band and reinstated Billy Cox. Fans refer to this final Hendrix/Cox/Mitchell lineup as the Cry of Love band, named after the tour. Performances on this tour were occasionally uneven in quality and featured Hendrix, Cox, and Mitchell playing new material alongside extended versions of older recordings. The tour included 30 performances and ended at Honolulu on August 1, 1970. A number of these shows were professionally recorded and produced some of Hendrix's most memorable live performances.
In August, 1970, Electric Lady Studios was opened in New York. In 1968, Hendrix and Jeffery had invested jointly in the purchase of the Generation Club in Greenwich Village. Designed by architect and acoustician John Storyk, the studio was made specifically for Hendrix, with round windows and a machine capable of generating ambient lighting in a myriad of colors. It was designed to have a relaxing feel to encourage Jimi's creativity, but at the same time provide a professional recording atmosphere. Engineer Eddie Kramer upheld this goal by refusing to allow any drug use during session work. However, Hendrix spent only four weeks recording in Electric Lady, most of which took place while the final phases of construction were still ongoing.
The group then commenced on a tour of Europe designed to earn money to repay the studio loans, temper Jimi's mounting back taxes and legal fees, and fund the production of his next album, tentatively titled First Rays of The New Rising Sun. Audience demands for the older hits and stage trickery that he had long tired of performing only served to worsen his mood. In Aarhus, Denmark, Hendrix abandoned his show after only two songs, remarking: "I've been dead a long time."
On September 6, 1970, his final concert performance, Hendrix was greeted with booing and jeering by fans at the Isle of Fehmarn Festival in Germany in a riot-like atmosphere reminiscent of the failed Altamont Festival. Hendrix retreated to London, where he reached out to Chas Chandler, Eric Burdon, and other friends in a renewed attempt to divorce himself from manager Michael Jeffery. Jimi's last public performance was an informal jam at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho with Burdon and his latest band, War.
Hendrix is widely known for and associated with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, most notably LSD. A common opinion is that Jimi's use of LSD was integral in unlocking his creative process. Various forms of sleeping pills and speed fueled his "stop and go" lifestyle throughout his career, and there are pictures of Hendrix smoking marijuana.
Hendrix was also believed to use heroin, a charge emphatically denied by his family and some of his friends. A toxicology report prepared shortly after his death found no heroin in his body, nor were there any marks from needles.
In the early morning hours of September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix was found dead in the basement flat of the Samarkand Hotel at 22 Lansdowne Crescent in London. Hendrix died amid circumstances which have never been fully explained. He had spent the night with his German girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, and likely died in bed after drinking wine and taking nine Vesperax sleeping pills, which could have led to Hendrix asphyxiating on his own vomit. For years, Dannemann publicly claimed that Hendrix was alive when placed in the back of the ambulance; however, her comments about that morning were often contradictory and confused, varying from interview to interview. Police and ambulance reports reveal that not only was Hendrix dead when they arrived on the scene, but he had been dead for some time, the apartment's front door was wide open, and the apartment was empty. Following a libel case brought in 1996 by Hendrix's long-term British girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, Monika Dannemann allegedly took her own life.
Some reports indicated that the paramedics who escorted Jimi out of the apartment did not support his head and that he was still alive. According to this version of events, he choked on his own vomit and died during the trip to the hospital, because his head and his neck were not supported. 
A sad poem written by Hendrix was found in the apartment and has led some to believe that he committed suicide. More speculative is the belief that Hendrix was murdered. That he was forcibly given sleeping pills and wine, then asphyxiated with a scarf by professionals hired by manager Michael Jeffery. The most popular theory, however, is that he simply misjudged the potency of the sleeping pills, and asphyxiated in his sleep due to an inability to regain consciousness.
Although Hendrix reportedly wanted to be buried in England, his body was returned to Seattle and he was interred at Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Washington. His father, Al Hendrix, created a five-plot family burial site to include himself and other family members. The headstone for Jimi contains a drawing of a Stratocaster guitar, although it is depicted as the instrument of a traditional right-handed player. (Hendrix played the instrument left-handed).
The memorial is an impressive granite dome supported by three pillars under which Jimi Hendrix is interred. Jimi's autograph is inscribed at the base of each pillar, while two stepped entrances and one ramped entrance provide access to the dome's center where the original Stratocaster-adorned headstone has been incorporated into a pedestal, designed to hold a bronze statue of Hendrix.
In May, 2006, Seattle honored the music, artistry and legacy of Jimi Hendrix with the naming of a new park near Seattle's historic Colman School in the heart of the Central District.
Hendrix synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice, and his guitar style was unique, later to be abundantly imitated by others. He was a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings.
Hendrix did much to further the development of the electric guitar repertoire. He helped establish the instrument in its own right, as opposed to its previous status as an amplified version of the acoustic guitar. Likewise, his feedback and fuzz-laden soloing moved guitar distortion well beyond mere novelty, popularizing effects pedals and units (most notably the wah-wah pedal) dramatically.
Hendrix strove to combine what he called "earth," a blues, jazz, or funk driven rhythm accompaniment, with "space," the high-pitched psychedelic sounds created by his guitar improvisations. As a record producer, Hendrix also broke new ground in using the recording studio as an extension of his musical ideas; he was one of the first to experiment with stereophonic and phasing effects during the recording process.
Hendrix affected popular music with similar profundity. Along with earlier bands such as The Who and Cream, he established a sonically heavy yet technically proficient bent to rock music, significantly furthering the development of hard rock and paving the way for heavy metal. He took blues to a new level. His music has also had a great influence on funk and the development of funk rock especially through the guitarists Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers, Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, and Prince. His influence even extends to many hip hop artists, including Chuck D of Public Enemy, Ice-T (who also covered Hey Joe), El-P, and Wyclef Jean. Hendrix was listed as number three on VH1's list of 100 Best Hard Rock Artists of all time behind Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. He was also ranked number three on VH1's list of 100 Best Pop Artists of all time behind the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. He has alternately been voted by Rolling Stone, Guitar World, and a number of other magazines and polls as the best electric guitarist of all time.
In 1992, Hendrix was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
All links retrieved February 18, 2014.
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