Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Jimi Hendrix

I will be writing about a few artists in this series who are known as much for their guitar playing as their music in general, and Jimi Hendrix has to be the first.

Anyone who's picked up a guitar in the last 40 years looks up to this guy.  Wants to be able to play like he did.  He is considered by many to be the greatest electric guitar play that has ever lived, and for good reason.

His rendition of the Star Spangled Banner the last day of Woodstock was amazing, and captured everything that music festival was about in just a few minutes.  Praising the love of a troubled nation, urging the crowd to share in his anger and frustrations, with some ridiculous solos, all evolving into Purple Haze.

Jimi had a troubled childhood to say the least, and taught himself to play guitar at 15.  He got his first electric guitar about a year later.  He was expelled from high school and tangled with the law, then was given an option to go to jail or join the Army.  He chose to enlist, but was discharged soon after.

He worked his way up the ladder in the music industry, playing in the bands for the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and others.  It wasn't until 1966 that he headlined The Jimi Hendrix Experience, formed in England.  He was far more successful in Europe than here in the US for years.

It wasn't really until his performance at Woodstock, the last of the festival, that he became a household name here.  He was known for the raw edge in his music, for his hippie attire, for his onstage antics and for his publicly-known drug use.

His influence has extended from funk to heavy metal.  He pioneered the modern use of amplified sound effects in electric guitars. You could easily make an argument that he is single-handedly responsible for the wild success of the Fender Stratocaster.
His death in 1970 granted his admission to the most infamous club no one wants to join, the 27 Club.  He joined several other artists who met untimely deaths at the age of 27.  His death was not without controversy.  It was ruled asphyxiation, but there were allegations of murder.

His impact on music has been undeniable.

I'm the one that has to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life, the way I want to.
~ Jimi Hendrix

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