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Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix 1967.png
Background information
Birth name Johnny Allen Hendrix
Born (1942-11-27)November 27, 1942
Seattle, Washington, United States
Died September 18, 1970(1970-09-18) (aged 27)
London, England
Genres Hard rock, blues-rock, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1963–1970
Black fender stratocaster
Black fender stratocaster

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music".

He became successful in England, and then became famous all through the world after he played at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He was also known for headlining in the famous Woodstock Festival.

Hendrix taught himself how to play the electric guitar and usually played a Fender Stratocaster. Because he was left-handed, he would play the guitar upside down.

Hendrix was the recipient of several music awards during his lifetime and posthumously. In 1967, readers of Melody Maker voted him the Pop Musician of the Year, and in 1968, Rolling Stone declared him the Performer of the Year. Disc and Music Echo honored him with the World Top Musician of 1969 and in 1970, Guitar Player named him the Rock Guitarist of the Year.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Rolling Stone ranked the band's three studio albums, Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland, among the 100 greatest albums of all time, and they ranked Hendrix as the greatest guitarist and the sixth greatest artist of all time.

Early life

Bertran Philander Ross Hendrix and Zenora "Nora" Rose Hendrix
Hendrix's paternal grandparents, Ross and Nora Hendrix, pre-1912

Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle on November 27, 1942. He was called Johnny Allen Hendrix when he was born. Later, his dad named him James Marshall Hendrix when he returned from the military. He grew up without much money or attention; his parents divorced when he was nine years old, and his mother died when he was 16.

In 1957, while helping his father with a side-job, Hendrix found a ukulele amongst the garbage that they were removing from an older woman's home. She told him that he could keep the instrument, which had only one string. Learning by ear, he played single notes, following along to Elvis Presley songs.

In mid-1958, at age 15, Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar, for $5. He earnestly applied himself, playing the instrument for several hours daily, watching others and getting tips from more experienced guitarists, and listening to blues artists.

Soon after he acquired the acoustic guitar, Hendrix formed his first band, the Velvetones. Without an electric guitar, he could barely be heard over the sound of the group. After about three months, he realized that he needed an electric guitar in order to continue. In mid-1959, his father relented and bought him a white Supro Ozark. Hendrix's first gig was with an unnamed band in the Jaffe Room of Seattle's Temple De Hirsch Sinai

Early inspirations

Jimi Hendrix experience 1968 (crop)
Jimi Hendrix experience 1968

When Hendrix was young, he was a fan of Elvis Presley. He went to see Presley play at Sick’s Stadium on September 1, 1957, and he drew a color picture of him holding an acoustic guitar. The original drawing can be seen in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Even as an adult, he still loved Presley. He went to a see a Presley movie, King Creole, in Paris in late 1968, to give him inspiration to write songs. He also liked famous blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Lightning Hopkins.

Military service

Hendrix in Army
Hendrix in the US Army, 1961

Before Hendrix was 19 years old, law enforcement authorities had twice caught him riding in stolen cars. When given a choice between spending time in prison or joining the Army, he chose the latter and enlisted on May 31, 1961. After completing eight weeks of basic training at Fort Ord, California, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Hendrix completed his paratrooper training in just over eight months, and Major General C.W.G. Rich awarded him the prestigious Screaming Eagles patch on January 11, 1962. On June 29, 1962, Captain Gilbert Batchman granted Hendrix an honorable discharge.

Later life

Jimi Hendrix statue outside Dimbola Lodge
Hendrix statue outside Dimbola Lodge, Isle of Wight

Hendrix's left-handed playing on a guitar made for right-handed people made him popular. His first proper concert was with a small band without a name, playing in a Synagogue. He later joined a band called The Velvetones.

After leaving the army, Hendrix moved to Clarksville in Tennessee, where he played in a group, The King Kasuals. They played in small bars but they did not make much money. So, eventually, he moved to Nashville. They played many blues-style songs in Nashville. In November 1962, Hendrix went to his first studio performance. While in Nashville, Hendrix played in many other bands as rhythm and lead guitarist and vocals. This did not get him much money, but did give him experience of how bands worked.

Later, Hendrix left Nashville and went to Northern New York City. By January 1964, he moved to Harlem where he played at bars and clubs for money. Hendrix also won first prize in an amateur guitar contest at The Apollo Theatre. In 1966, Hendrix formed his own band called "Jimmy James and The Blues Flames".

In 1966, Hendrix became friends with the girlfriend of Keith Richards, guitarist for The Rolling Stones, Linda Keith. She liked his music and introduced him to Chas Chandler, the manager for The Animals. Chandler told Hendrix to write a rock version of the song “Hey Joe” and when he did, Chandler brought him to London to sign a contract with him. Hendrix had to make a new band. It was called The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Jimi Hendrix Experience made its first album in 1967. It was called Are You Experienced? When the album was being produced and sold, Hendrix travelled around the UK and some of Europe. On June 4, 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their last concert in London before going to America. In America many famous people came to see Hendrix play including Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Brian Epstein.

The album reached number two in the UK charts. In 2001, VH1 named Are You Experienced as the fifth greatest album of all time. Rolling Stone magazine put it at number 15 on a list of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003.

Jimi Hendrix Experience in Fenklup
Jimi Hendrix Experience in Fenklup

Axis: Bold as Love

Hendrix’ second album came out in 1967. It was called Axis: Bold as Love. It had famous songs in it, most famous being "Little Wing". There have been several other versions of the song by other musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Henry "Hank" Marrion, Metallica, Eric Clapton, Sting and Pearl Jam. An important difference in the album from other albums he made was that Hendrix tuned his guitar down a semi-tone (to E flat). The album reached number three in the US charts and number five in the UK charts.

The album almost did not sell, since Hendrix lost the master tape of side one of the LP in the back of a taxi in London. Hendrix, Chas Chandler and an engineer called Eddie Kramer had to re-mix the songs in one night. They could not get the song "If 6 was 9" right, but Hendrix's bassist Noel Redding had a copy of it on tape. When the album was released, Hendrix was disappointed that the album was finished so quickly and he thought it could have been done better.

The cover of Axis: Bold as Love

Electric LadyLand

Hendrix finished his third album, called Electric LadyLand - a double album with two LP's - in 1968. In this year, Chas Chandler (Hendrix’s manager) decided to leave Hendrix and so did Noel Redding. When Chandler left, Hendrix changed everything in his music. He began using different musicians and instruments. He used guitars with flutes and trombones all with distortion to get strange sounds. The album reached number one in the US. It reached number five in the UK. In 2003, VH1 named the album the 72nd best album of all time, and the Rolling Stones magazine gave it 54th greatest album of all time.

Jimi Hendrix


Popiersie Jimi Hendrix ssj 20060914
Bust of Jimi Hendrix in Celebrity Alley in Kielce (Poland)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

  • Are You Experienced (1967)
  • Axis: Bold as Love (1967)
  • Electric Ladyland (1968)

Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys

  • Band of Gypsys (1970)

Posthumous albums

  • The Cry of Love (1971)
  • Rainbow Bridge (1971)
  • War Heroes (1972)
  • First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Monterey Pop Festival

Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival, June 18, 1967
The iconic image of Hendrix summoning the flames higher with his fingers

Although popular in Europe at the time, the Experience's first U.S. single, "Hey Joe", failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart upon its release on May 1, 1967. The group's fortunes improved when McCartney recommended them to the organizers of the Monterey Pop Festival. He insisted that the event would be incomplete without Hendrix, whom he called "an absolute ace on the guitar", and he agreed to join the board of organizers on the condition that the Experience perform at the festival in mid-June.

Introduced by Brian Jones as "the most exciting performer [he had] ever heard", Hendrix opened with a fast arrangement of Howlin' Wolf's song "Killing Floor", wearing what author Keith Shadwick described as "clothes as exotic as any on display elsewhere." Shadwick wrote: "[Hendrix] was not only something utterly new musically, but an entirely original vision of what a black American entertainer should and could look like."


Woodstock redmond stage
Crowd at Woodstock

Hendrix went to play at Woodstock on August 18, 1969. That year, Woodstock made over $18,000 and has since become one of the most famous concerts in the world. Hendrix then went on to play a two-hour concert. Hendrix played a version of Star Spangled Banner. He played this anthem with heavy distortion and screams from his guitar. Hendrix, in an interview, said that he "did not intend for his performance to be a political statement", he just wanted it to be another version of the national anthem.


Jimi Hendrix Memorial, fragment
Jimi Hendrix Memorial

Although the details of Hendrix's last day and death are widely disputed, he spent much of September 17, 1970, in London. Dr. John Bannister pronounced him dead at 12:45 p.m. on September 18, 1970.

After Hendrix's body had been embalmed by Desmond Henley, it was flown to Seattle, Washington, on September 29, 1970. After a service at Dunlap Baptist Church in Seattle's Rainier Valley on October 1, it was interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, Washington, the location of his mother's grave.

Hendrix's family and friends traveled in twenty-four limousines and more than two hundred people attended the funeral, including several notable musicians such as original Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, as well as Miles Davis, John Hammond, and Johnny Winter.


Hendrix was buried in Renton, Washington in Greenwood Memorial Park on October 1, 1970. His headstone was wrong because it shows a picture of Hendrix playing a Stratocaster, but the Stratocaster is right-handed, Hendrix played left-handed. Because Hendrix had so many fans, people were worried that the crowds of people wanting to look at his grave would damage other graves, so Hendrix’ father, Al Hendrix, had another memorial site built far from other graves.

The memorial is a granite dome architecture, held up by three pillars and Hendrix is buried underneath. His autograph is at the foot of each pillar and a brass sundial is at the top of the dome. There is also a memorial statue of Hendrix playing a Stratocaster on the corner of Broadway and Pine in Seattle.

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See also

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