Today — September 18th — marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle on November 27th, 1942, he grew up to become one of the most original and influential guitarist of the 1960s. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 1992, called him “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
He played a white Fender Stratocaster left-handed, making liberal use of feedback, volume and vibrato, and wrote songs with trippy lyrics.
“People taught me to play, man — the movement of people and the way they carry on from this or that, you know, the idea of it. Anybody can do anything they want to do, it’s up to themselves…with the right intentions.”
“I joined this band I knew about three songs. And when it’s time for us to get up on stage man I was like this… And I had to play behind the curtains you..”
He recorded three studio albums — all of them with the Experience — the last of which was Electric Ladyland in 1968.
“That whole LP means so much. You know, it wasn’t just slapped together. Every little thing that you hear on there means something. You know, it’s not a little game that we’re playing — trying to blow up the public’s mind or so forth. It’s a thing that we really, really mean. You know, it’s part of us. Another part of us.”
But it was on stage where Jimi caused the biggest stir, A shocking performance at the Monterey Pop festival in 1967 helped break him in America. And his howling rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969 became a memorable signpost of the era.
“The non-violence. The very, very, very good brand of music. I don’t mean good, I mean the very true brand of music. The acceptance of the long awaited crowd, how they had to sleep in mud and rain and get hassled by this and hassled by that and still come through saying that it was a successful festival. That’s one of the good things. There’s so many stories you can add up on this thing.”
Despite forever being recognized as one of the greatest guitar players of the 20th century, he told a British journalist just seven days before his death in September 1970 that he didn’t like being pigeonholed.
“I just hate to be in one corner. I hate to be put as only a guitar player or only as a songwriter or only as a tap dancer — something like this, you know.”