Jimi Hendrix: The Man, The Music, The Experience
Alexandria Evers

Introduction & Thesis Statement

During Jimi Hendrix’s lifetime, he was able to take his childhood experiences and integrate them into the 1960s and 1970s music scenes creating and bridging new genres that last to this day. This post will give context to the man behind the guitar, evaluate elements often found in his music and political activism, and will analyze mentioned elements some of Jimi Hendrix’s most popular songs.

Biography

Born to two parents in Seattle, Washington in 1942 Jimi was given the name Johnny Allen Hendrix, but his name was later changed by his father to James Hendrix. He was continuously referred to Young Jimmy throughout his childhood. Hendrix became interested in music early on in his childhood.   

It was recalled by Hendrixs father that he would ask Young Jimmy to sweep the entire house before he came home from work; instead he would come home to find straw all over the house from Young Jimmy using the broom as a guitar.

It was not until 1958 when Hendrix was 16 years old that his father gave him a five dollar acoustic guitar that was previously owned by a family friend. Not long after Hendrix formed his first band, The Velvetones, that Hendrix soon left to join the army. 

Not long after 1963, Hendrix was later given an honorable discharge after breaking his ankle after landing a parachute jump. After leaving the armed services Hendrix decided to seriously pursue his music career. He became a backup guitarist and often the lead guitarist for many headlining acts; Tine Turner, Sam Cooke, and Little Richard among others. 

In 1966 Hendrix found his way to London, England from the advice of his close friend Chas Chandler and with promises to be signed to a up and coming record label. Once in London Chandler assumed the role of Hendrixs manager and publicist. Chandler suggested the name spelling change of Jimmy Hendrixs name to Jimi Hendrix. With Chandlers help Hendrix created the Jimi Hendrix Experience and became a Rock N Roll sensation seemingly overnight. 

 On September 18, 1970 Jimi Hendrix died in London from an overdose on barbiturates. Many conspiracies surround his death, and many more are still forming to this day. However, at the young age of 27 his influence on music, art, and politics was felt all over the world and can still be felt to this day. 

Jimi Hendrix's Influence All Over the World

  • Seattle, Washington
    • Born and performed his first musical performance
  • London, England
    • Began the “The Jimi Hendrix Experience” and later died
  • Atlanta, Georgia
    • Performed at the Atlanta Music Festival 1970
  • New York City, New York
    • Founded “Electric Lady” Record Label and Studio
  • Fort Campbell, Kentucky
    • Served in the military and founded his first band “The King Casuals”
  • White Lake, New York
    • Performed the controversial “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock 1969 

Discography & Elements in Music

His accomplishments in music go hand and hand with his guitar skills. As a completely self-taught guitarist, Hendrix was known for his exceptional use of riffs, distortion and overdrive, and scale and chord combinations.

Hendrix was known for improvising his live performances and would throw in riffs where he saw fit, however Hendrix recorded many songs built around riffs; “Foxy Lady”, “Machine Gun”, and “All Along the Watchtower”.

As for Hendrix’s use of a distortion and overdrive pedal; it was completely revolutionary. To achieve his signature “fuzzy tone” in his performances Hendrix used a distortion pedal to add “grit and realness to his performances…” (Aledort, 1995). He was one of the first few artist to take this method of distortion and make it apart of mainstream music. Examples of his use of distortion and overdrive pedals can be found in his songs “Hey Joe” and “Voodoo Child” (Black, 1999).

And finally, his use of scales and chord combinations were unique to the 1960s, because he integrated elements from any genres; blues, rock, soul, RnB, and jazz. This is exemplified in his most popular song “Purple Haze”; this song has clear rock elements, British and American, and subtle blues and soul components (Doggett, 2004). The way scales and chords were placed in songs were done decisively to create a more soulful sound to reach varying audiences.

Influences & Significance

Artist Who Influenced Jimi Hendrix

  • B.B. King
  • Muddy Waters
  • Albert King
  • Howlin’ Wolf

Artist Jimi Hendrix Influenced

  • Prince
  • Slash
  • Lenny Kravitz
  • etc…

Jimi Hendrix’s significance in the 1960s consisted of political tension, musical and artistic exploration, and self-expression; Jimi Hendrix experienced and influenced it all. Jimi Hendrix knew and pursued his dreams to bring enlightenment to the world, his did this through music and political activism. As an innovator in his own right Jimi Hendrix integrated elements in his music unlike any other during his time. Utilizing his childhood experiences, his creative soul, and his concern for humanity Jimi Hendrix influenced the 1960s, 1970s, and influences still to this day. 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.

~Jimi Hendrix

Bibliography

Aledort, Andy (1995). Tolinski, Brad, ed. “Jimi Hendrix Lesson: Message to Love”. Guitar School7 (3)

Black, Johnny. Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999.

Bowie, Herb. “Reason to Rock.” Jimi Hendrix | Reason to Rock. 2001 .Accessed September 22, 2017.http://www.reasontorock.com/artists/jimi_hendrix.html.

Brattin, Joel. “Hendrix and Woodstock: 10 Little Known Facts about the Performance That Defined the ’60s.” WPI. 2009. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.wpi.edu/news/woodstock.

Burnim, Mellonee V, and Portia K Maultsby. Part IAfrican American Music: An Introduction, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2015, pp. 1–50.

Doggett, Peter (2004). Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Guide to his Music. Omnibus. ISBN 978-1-84449-424-8.

“Jimi Hendrix Biography.” Rolling Stone. 2001. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/jimi-hendrix/biography.

“Jimi Hendrix Biography.” The Official Jimi Hendrix Site. 2016. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://jimihendrix.com/biography/.

Murray, Charles Shaar. Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s, 1989.

Whitaker, Matthew C. (2011). https://books.google.com/books?id=RSGhEUq5bp0C&dq. 1. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-37642-9.

 

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