Jimi Hendrix, the most notable rock guitarist in history, was born in 1942 in Seattle, Washington in a family of black, white and native American ancestry with roots in Canada. After enlisting in the US army for a short period, Hendrix began experimenting with his guitar acting upon his rhythm and blues influences. Hendrix occasionally used a Gibson Flying V, but his main guitar was a Fender Stratocaster.
Following a stint in Nashville and another in New York City, Hendrix moved to London where he, and guitarist-turned-bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Legend has it that in his New York days the members of Rolling Stones sat through a Hendrix performance and came away unimpressed.
The band signed to Track Records and began a dazzling career of recording and performing original tunes, as well as cover versions like Hey Joe, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower.
Are you Experienced?, the band’s debut, was released in 1967. Here began the wild stage antics of a guitarist who would not only damage equipment at will, but would take delight in setting his guitar ablaze. While success in the UK, and to some extent continental Europe, was immediate US was slower to react. The band’s popularity was helped following its appearance in the film Monterey Pop. The band also appeared at the Woodstock festival. Most fans acknowledge Electric Ladyland as the group’s pinnacle given the more direct and harder-edged songs. Redding was soon gone however wishing to continue on guitar. His subsequent band, called Fat Mattress, would often open for Hendrix however. Billy Cox was a former army colleague of Hendrix. In the midst of legal troubles, Hendrix would apparently dissolve his band and form Gypsy Sun And Rainbows.
A heavy drug user, Hendrix died in London after choking on his vomit due to an overdose in September of 1970. A wealth of material, demos, jams and outtakes have been released posthumously. Out of all the albums only the first five were released during his lifetime. Hendrix’s father, half-sister and children have often been involved in legal toss-ups regarding the artist’s estate. With the number of commercial releases and court actions that have ensued the artist’s legacy has become an exercise in accounting instead of arts. In 2008 Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills And Nash discovered a 40-year old recording of music he and Jimi Hendrix completed. This was being prepared for release. Mitch Mitchell was found dead in a Portland hotel room on November 12th, 2008. The 62 year old died of natural causes. Universal Music Publishing Group signed a contract with the estate to become the exclusive administrator of the guitarist’s catalogue for five years outside the United States beginning 2009. Bassist Billy Cox was one of the artists who were inducted into the Musicians Hall Of Fame in Nashville in the autumn of 2009. Stepsister of Jimi, CEO and president Janie Hendrix, delighted the fans of the long-dead guitarist/singer by telling NME in 2009 that she expected the corporation (Experience Hendrix) to release new audio and video every 12 to 18 months for the next decade. Yet another Hendrix album saw the light of day in 2010. Valleys Of Neptune was released on March 9th. It debuted on The Billboard 200 best-selling albums chart at #4. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's birth the guitarist’s August 1969 Woodstock concert was shown in a few cinemas globally starting the end of November, 2012.
Jimi Hendrix was years ahead of his time. He, arguably, was the first embodiment of what would become hard rock and heavy metal.