Jimi Hendrix transformed the genre of rock with virtuoso performances that have yet to be reproduced to this day. The late, legendary guitarist passed on this day in 1970, ending the arc of one of music’s brightest and most influential stars.
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, with his father later changing his name to James Marshall. Born to a teen mother, Hendrix’s childhood was a rough one, but there was music in his spirit from early on. According to accounts, Hendrix would strum a broom like a guitar, which inspired his father, Al, to buy his son an acoustic guitar at 16 and an electric one the following year.
Dropping out of high school, the largely self-taught Hendrix became adept at playing, studying rock and roll and blues groups before forming his own band, the Rocking Kings. In 1961, Hendrix joined the U.S. Army, but music remained his true passion. He was honorably discharged in 1962, and began performing under the moniker Jimmy James as a session musician for B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Little Richard and others.
In 1965, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames were born in New York, as was Hendrix’s foray into experimental styles of playing. The next year, Chas Chandler of British rock band The Animals began managing Hendrix and ultimately he joined bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
After releasing two albums as a band and a third solo outing, the band dissolved. This only served to propel Hendrix as a global superstar after his heart-stopping performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969, opening with his rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
On September 18, 1970, Hendrix died from complications due to drug use. He was just 27, unwitting becoming a member of rock’s ’27’ club that includes others musicians that died at that age. Earlier that year, Hendrix opened the famed Electric Lady Studios in New York which he used for just four weeks before his unfortunate passing. The studio, where D’Angelo and Common among others have recorded, is still open.
Prince viewed Hendrix as an influence on his guitar playing among many other artists who admired the prodigious musician.
Outkast rapper Andre “Andre 3000” Benjamin played Hendrix in the biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side.
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