James Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970), better known as Jimi Hendrix, an American rock musician, is widely regarded as one of the best electric guitarists of all time. He made the electric guitar more than an acoustic guitar hooked up to an amplifier – he made it into a new musical instrument. His ways of playing guitar were quickly picked up by Led Zeppelin, Funkadelic, Black Sabbath – and even his old bandmates in the Isley Brothers.
He loved his guitar. He played it constantly. He slept with it – even back when he was 15 and all he had was a $5 guitar (6 crowns). He could play it with his teeth, he could play it behind his back, he could play it without the E string, he could play it so that it sounded like two guitars at once. He used speaker feedback, distortion and wah-wahs to make it sound like more than a guitar.
His hands were bigger and stronger than most, giving him a wider range in what he could do on a guitar. He was left-handed, but instead of buying a left-handed guitar, even when he could afford one, he played a right-handed guitar restrung and upside down – which put the controls in easier reach than for most guitarists. His father could not afford lessons, so he taught himself, a shy, creative kid in Seattle.
He played loud. He set his speakers to 10, the top volume setting (there was no 11) – but even that was not loud enough. He had louder speakers made producing a dirtier sound. It would later make rock concerts at football stadiums possible.
He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there.
Hendrix was a huge Dylan fan – in Harlem in 1965, no less, where it was rare. He wore out his copies of “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965) and “Blonde on Blonde” (1966). Dylan’s terrible singing style set the bar low enough for Hendrix to make it big in rock music. Hendrix could not sing “pretty” enough for the blues, R&B and soul music scene he grew up in and, in the early 1960s, took part in as sideman and session musician.
In the early 1960s he played on the chitlin circuit with the likes of the Isley Brothers, Ike Turner and Little Richard. You can hear him on the Isley Brother’s 1964 song “Testify” one minute in. But playing in the background with these acts, he had to turn his star all the way down.
In 1966 he moved from Harlem to Greenwich Village and got noticed by Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffery of the Animals, who had the wherewithal to make him big – in their native Britain. In Britain his huge talent was instantly recognized by Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton and other rock greats. Where they pretty much just copied Black American blues guitarists with some changes, he took the same music and made it his own.
- music festivals:
- ISFP – his personality type
- beyond black – he is bigger among whites than blacks.
- Quincy Jones – also from Seattle