The final segment of The Jimmys is reserved for the God of Guitars, the Messiah of Modern Rock, the Psychedelic Surfing Gypsy, the one, the only, Jimi Hendrix.
I will never be able to correctly thank Jimi for the role that he’s played in my life. Until I started playing music, I was unmotivated and didn’t care about a lot of things. I was lazy, and all I wanted to do was walk around and hang with my friends.
I started playing guitar around age 12 and the summer after that I was at a summer camp when I heard Jimi for the first time. We were all sitting around our cabin that was close to falling over, and one of the camp councillors had brought an electric guitar and a mini-amp to jam on. He was playing this weird, funky track that I had never heard so I asked him what song that was. He said “Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.” I got home a few days later and when I went to the computer and typed in Purple Haze my outlook on music changed forever.
James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington in November of 1942. He is known throughout the music world as possibly the greatest guitarist of all time. His understanding and addiction to the guitar was one of a kind and the music catalogue he left behind of his short 27 years will forever influence musicians, especially guitarists.
As told by his friends and family, Jimi was never seen without a guitar in his hands. Whether he was grabbing a taxi, going for a walk, smoking a cigarette, or riding his motorcycle a guitar was attached to Jimi Hendrix at all times.
In a time of civil unrest and hardship for African American males, Jimi Hendrix was one of the first prominent black guitarist to emerge from the ’60’s era. Don’t mistake him as the first black guitarist to amaze the world though. While he was learning his own style, Hendrix was fascinated with the blues musicians from his childhood like Howlin’ Wolfe, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters who are all credited with helping shape modern blues and rock music.
Hendrix was in the army before comitting to music full time. He was training to become a paratrooper when he was given an honorary discharge from the military service. The reason for his discharge has been disputed but reasons vary between breaking his ankle and being “unattentive and not fit to be a soldier” according to certain sources. What is clear is that he didn’t like the army as he stated later in life. His true passion was music and his spirit came alive when he left the army.
He grabbed his Silvertone Danelectro that he named “Betty Jean” and hit the road, touring with numerous blues bands around the American South-West as a backing guitarist. His proficient playing and individuality soon made him stand out as more than just a rhythm guitarist. Soon after he flew to England, where he enjoyed the psychedelic and music scene. At the time with the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and now this amazing hippy from America that played loud and made love to his guitar, there was a revolution happening throughout England and especially London.
Music, fashion, art, movies,cars, drugs, alcohol were all exploding throughout London in the 1960s and it only intensified the effect Jimi had on the world. He absolutely embraced the counter-culture and enveloped himself into his music. He enjoyed his parties and women, he knew how famous he was, but his friends like famed bassist Billy Cox all say remained himself and genuine until the end. Hendrix had a kind heart and simply wanted to make people feel good with his music and his personality.
When you watch footage of Hendrix onstage, in his crazy robes, hat with feathers, dripping in sweat and screaming only half as loud as his ear splitting guitar, you can see almost an exotic bird thriving in its natural environment. Interviews of Hendrix show him as a quiet, shy, and reserved being that just wanted to jam, and that’s exactly what he was. When he stepped on stage with his Stratocaster and Marshall amps he became another person reflecting the beauty he wanted to show the world.
I could rant all day about Jimi Hendrix so I’ll end it with that. He is my true role model and I can give credit to him and only him for inspiring me so much to pursue my love for music.
There’s a documentary on Netflix called Hear My Train A Comin’ and it tells the story of how Jimi rose to fame. I recommend this movie to anyone whenever Jimi Hendrix enters the conversation. If you’ve never listened to him, start with his first record “Are You Experienced?” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.