Jimi Hendrix was a profound artist. He left an amazing and great impression on everyone that he met with or even played before. This impression spread even further when he released an album. He took the guitar to a whole new level and with that he affected music and the people who listened to it for years to come; even now his music and stage presence influences and shapes today’s music. There are so many different aspects that were affected by his music. He was able to change the way a guitar would be looked at and even how it would be played. He changed the way people performed on stage and how they dressed. If you do a Google search for “Jimi Hendrix” you get about 17.9 million results if this does not show how many people have been inspired by Hendrix I don’t know what could. Jimi Hendrix was an amazing and vibrant soul.
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To understand where the body and soul of Hendrix’s music comes from we must start with where he came from and how he was raised. Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942. When he was born his mother was only 17. His parents Lucille and Al had a struggling relationship and it eventually lead to their divorce on December 17, 1951. Many say that it was Lucille’s drinking that caused the relationship to dissipate. This seems to be true due to her cause of death. Lucille died on February 2nd, 1958 due to cirrhosis of the liver which caused her spleen to rupture. With the problems that Al faced with Hendrix’s mother he decided to change his name to James Marshall Hendrix. This was said to have been for Al’s late brother Leon Marshall Hendrix. Hendrix was the one of five children. The rest of his siblings spent most of their time in foster care. His father had difficulty finding a job after world war two so sometimes Hendrix spent time with his grandmother in Vancouver, British Columbia.
While Hendrix was growing up his father ran across a ukulele while cleaning out a garage and gave it to Hendrix. He took a liking to it right away so his father bought a second hand acoustic guitar from an acquaintance he knew. Hendrix learned to play by practicing for many, many hours a day. He talked to those who knew how to play and took their tips and advice and began learning how to play. He started watching how other people played the guitar and he decided to take his learning a step further by listening to records and trying to play them. When he first began to learn how to play he was faced with one main problem. The guitars were designed for right-handed people. This lead to one of Hendrix’s most noticeable playing styles. He played a right-handed guitar upside-down so as to allow him to play left-handed. After Hendrix took a huge liking to the guitar his father decided he needed an upgrade. So sometime around 1958-1959 his father purchased him a white Supro Ozark electric guitar. He purchased this for Jimi even though he could not get an amplifier with it. This did not stop Hendrix who went on to learn everything he could about playing the guitar. Hendrix had many, now famous, inspirations to follow while growing up. He listened to the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and many other rock and soul bands. He played in a few small bands while going to school and eventually dropped out of high school. The first formal band that he was a member of was The Velvetones, a small band who played for no pay. Following this band Hendrix joined the Rocking Kings who played professionally. At one point Hendrix left his guitar backstage after a venue and it was stolen. His father decided to purchase Hendrix another guitar which happened to be a Silvertone Danelectro which Hendrix went on to personalize. Hendrix continued playing and eventually got caught up in car theft and this led to his choice of joining the Army.
Hendrix enlisted into the U.S. armed forces on May 31st, 1961. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and was stationed in Fort Campbell. There were many stories about why he was discharged from the military, but the most commonly accepted reason was that Hendrix had broken an ankle in a jump and was then honorably discharged soon after. While in service Hendrix met up with a bass player by the name Billy Cox and formed a friendship with him. They went on to play together from that day till just before Hendrix’s death.
After his discharge from the service Hendrix decided to work on playing music. He became a backup musician for the likes of: B. B. King, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and, Ike and Tina Turner. He started this portion of his career in Clarksville, Tennessee. His work with the previously mentioned artist lead him to New York where joined up with the Isley Brothers. He eventually left them and ran across Little Richard and has been found to have said “I wanted to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice (Band of Thebes).” After a short stint with Little Richard, Hendrix went back to playing for the Isley Brothers. Later that same year Hendrix joined Curtis Knight and the Squires and performed with them for around eight months. He then signed a three-year recording contract with Ed Chalpin that stated that he would receive a 1% royalty. This would cause Hendrix a few problems later down the road. In 1966 Hendrix decided to start his own band called, The Blue Flame. This band was made up of Randy Palmer on bass, Danny Casey on drums, and Randy Wolfe on guitar (mainly slides and rhythm). The band did well for a while but Hendrix was looking for more.
One day Hendrix ran across Linda Keith who introduced him to the Rolling Stones manager and producer who both decided to pass on taking in Hendrix. She then introduced him to Chas Chandler who was looking for some new talent to manage and produce. He liked Hendrix’s song “Hey Joe” and decided to try and make it a hit, this lead to Hendrix’s move to London. Chandler changed Hendrix’s stage name from Jimmy to Jimi and then helped setup The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The new band was made up of Noel Redding on bass, Mitch Mitchell on drums and of course Jimi Hendrix on guitar and vocals. Hendrix met many more famous or soon to be famous people along his path to stardom these included people like Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton and the band Cream. Hendrix did great in this position and stayed here for almost the rest of his career. He released many hit songs and also many great albums. Redding was not taking a liking to the bass and eventually left and started his own band which Hendrix allowed to open up for some of his performances. With this change Hendrix had the band changed to Gypsy Sun and Rainbows with Billy Cox on bass. Hendrix went on to play at many different venues most notably was Woodstock. Hendrix went on recording music until his death in September 18th, 1970.
With some knowledge of how Hendrix grew up and became famous we can see that he overcame many different things in his life that allowed him to prosper. Hendrix did many things for music while he composed and played it. He has forever changed the guitar and the way it is played, especially the electric guitar. His first realization when he grew up to play a right-handed guitar left-handed had a profound effect on the sound of the electric guitar. This due to the slant of the bridge pickup which allowed his low notes to be bright and crisp and his high notes to be mellow and droning. This was opposite of the intended effect. Hendrix also used the tremolo bar excessively which caused him to have to tune his instrument extremely often and sometimes it was enough to break strings which Hendrix played around, this not being an easy feat while playing live at a performance. These were not his only playing styles. Hendrix also used many different technical effects on his guitar. These are to include what most moderday artist call pedals. These allowed Hendrix to add the “wah wah” effect to his music and also the “fuzz box.” Hendrix was also known for the Octavia octave doubler which was used by him frequently. He worked with Roger Mayer who was a sound engineer. The majority of Hendrix’s music involved high volumes and excessive power and also feedback manipulation. This is just one way Hendrix affected music.
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Hendrix may have been the founder of his guitar techniques but he was also famous for some of his stage antics. This was one huge characteristics of Hendrix. When he got on stage he was a showman. He loved doing things that allowed him to shine. He would get up on stage and play with his teeth. He would also play the guitar behind his back and between his legs. He also used his left fretting hand to do some of his tricks for him. He would play the guitar using just his left (this is probably one of the most used tricks today). He would also use his thumb to fret the low notes while using the rest of his fingers to play melodies over these notes. He loved being a showman and doing thing for the crowd for example the burning of his guitar on stage. These together made a great stage presence for Hendrix. These antics would go on to influence many different groups throughout the music history.
Hendrix also affected fashion. This may not have been as profound as his music but the way Hendrix dressed throughout his life was quite different to the norm. Hendrix dressed in bright colors and in designs that most men would not wear. He would eventually create his own style without probably even realizing it. His style was mimicked for years during the 60s and 70s and began to grow less and less popular after his death.
Jimi Hendrix was an amazing artist. He has changed the way the world looks at the guitar and music on a whole. He has inspired many different new artist and many different new genres of music. Jimi Hendrix was a profound artist who left a profound effect on the world of music.
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