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The Ultimate Guitar Legend

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by , 09-30-2008 at 12:18 PM (4524 Views)


* Born: 27 November 1942
* Birthplace: Seattle, Washington
* Died: 18 September 1970 (drug overdose)
* Best Known As: Performer of "Purple Haze"

Name at birth: Johnny Allen Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix grabbed electric guitar by the neck and wrestled it into a new era. His feedback-heavy solos and hallucinogenic tunes helped define the psychedelic 1960s. With his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience he recorded the albums Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (also 1967), and Electric Ladyland (1968, including Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's tune "All Along the Watchtower"). The single "Purple Haze" from Are You Experienced remains one of rock's touchstone classics. The band broke up in 1969 but Hendrix remained a star, playing later that year at the Woodstock music festival. Hendrix was only 27 when he suffocated in 1970 after ingesting wine and sleeping pills in a London hotel.

Jimi, like Paul McCartney, was a left-handed guitar player... Hendrix's fuzz-guitar version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock has become a famous sound clip... He died two short weeks before another rock icon, Janis Joplin... A museum and interactive shrine to Hendrix, called the Experience Music Project, was built in Seattle by computer magnate Paul Allen.


In his brief four-year reign as a superstar, Jimi Hendrix expanded the vocabulary of the electric rock guitar more than anyone before or since. Hendrix was a master at coaxing all manner of unforeseen sonics from his instrument, often with innovative amplification experiments that produced astral-quality feedback and roaring distortion. His frequent hurricane blasts of noise and dazzling showmanship -- he could and would play behind his back and with his teeth and set his guitar on fire -- has sometimes obscured his considerable gifts as a songwriter, singer, and master of a gamut of blues, R&B, and rock styles.

When Hendrix became an international superstar in 1967, it seemed as if he'd dropped out of a Martian spaceship, but in fact he'd served his apprenticeship the long, mundane way in numerous R&B acts on the chitlin circuit. During the early and mid-'60s, he worked with such R&B/soul greats as Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, and King Curtis as a backup guitarist. Occasionally he recorded as a session man (the Isley Brothers' 1964 single "Testify" is the only one of these early tracks that offers even a glimpse of his future genius). But the stars didn't appreciate his show-stealing showmanship, and Hendrix was straight-jacketed by sideman roles that didn't allow him to develop as a soloist. The logical step was for Hendrix to go out on his own, which he did in New York in the mid-'60s, playing with various musicians in local clubs, and joining white blues-rock singer John Hammond, Jr.'s band for a while.

Jimi is the Man!...
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