James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. While thought to be the greatest guitarist of all time, Hendrix’s legacy grew far beyond the wide popularity he achieved during his short music career. As a self-taught guitarist, Hendrix honed his skills by listening to the music of earlier blues men like Muddy Waters, B.B. King and rock guitarist Chuck Berry.
In 1959, Hendrix enlisted in the U.S. Army were he served as a paratrooper. But his military career was cut short, when he sustained an injury, and was formerly discharged. On returning home, Hendrix moved to New York City and began playing under the stage name of Jimmy James, as a back-up guitarist for such notable performers, as Ike & Tina Turner, The Isley Brothers, and Little Richard. In 1965, he formed his own band called “Jimmy James and the Blues Flames”, and began playing extensively in Greenwich Village bars and coffeehouses.
In 1966, Hendrix moved to London, England, where he formed a new band called the “Jimi Hendrix Experience”, with then manager Chas Chandler (formerly of the Animals), bassist Noel Redding, and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The band’s first single entitled, “Hey Joe”, reached No. 6 on the U.K. pop charts. Their debut album “ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?” was released in 1967 and featured the cult classics, “Purple Haze”, “Foxy Lady”, and “Manic Depression.”
Jimi Hendrix was a bonifide superstar in England by the time the Experience made its American debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. It was during this performance, that Jimi doused his guitar in lighter fluid and set it on fire in front of a screaming crowd. With his innovative playing style and show-stopping performances Jimi became known for playing his right-handed Fender Stratocaster, the “Electric Lady”, upside down and left-handed and behind his back. He became an international superstar, with the release of two more albums called “AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE” and “ELECTRIC LADYLAND” in 1968 with the Experience.
Feuding between the group members led the Experience to disband in the summer of 1969. That same summer, Jimi gave a memorable performance at the Woodstock Festival, while accompanied by a new band called the “Electric Sky Church”. This concert marked the performance, of his historical fierce rendition, of the “Star-Spangled Banner”. Hendrix soon formed yet another trio called the “Band of Gypsys”. They toured and released a live album entitled “BAND OF GYPSYS” in 1970. A second live album called the “BAND OF GYPSYS 2” would be released in 1986, exactly sixteen years after his death.
In 1970, Hendrix was also recording another album, which was tentatively entitled, “FIRST RAYS OF THE RISING SUN”, with former Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, who played bass for the “Band of Gypsys”. He performed with Mitchell and Cox at his last concert, at the “Isle of Wight Rock Festival”, in August of 1970. On September 19, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died at the age of twenty-seven.
The cult surrounding Hendrix’s legacy has continued to grow, as the undeniable influence of his innovative style had a profound effect on many blues and rock musicians, including Stevie Ray Vaughn and Vernon Reid. Over 100 recording have helped to ensure his legacy, along with several tribute albums over the years. An all-star tribute entitled, “STONE FREE”, featuring “Eric Clapton”, “Jeff Beck”, “The Pretenders”, “The Cure”, Ice-T” and many other artists was released in 1993. Three different versions of Hendrix’s last unfinished studio album have been released with different titles: “THE CRY OF LOVE” (1971), “VOODOO SOUP” (1995), and its original title, “FIRST RAYS OF THE RISING SUN” (1997).
The literary world has also contributed vastly to Hendrix’s legacy, with the publication of numerous books about Jimi’s life and career. A highly acclaimed biography entitled “Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix”, by David Henderson was released in 1983. Several years’ later two addition memoirs were released by former bandmates. The 1996’s “Are You Experienced?: The Life of Jimi Hendrix”, by Noel Redding and “The Hendrix Experience”, by Mitch Mitchell in 1998.
James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix was formerly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
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