The Rise and Fall of Jimi Hendrix


Jimi Hendrix, the greatest guitarist in rock history, 
revolutionized the sound of rock. In 1967, the Jimi Hendrix 
Experience rocked the nation with their first album, Are You 
Experienced? Hendrix's life was cut short by the tragedy of drugs in 
1970, when he was only twenty seven years old. In these three years 
the sound of rock changed greatly, and Hendrix's guitar playing was a 
major influence.

 Jimi was born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942. As a 
young boy, whenever the chance came, Jimi would try to play along with 
his R & B records. However, music was not his life long dream. At 
first, the army was. In the late 1950's, Hendrix enlisted in the 
101st Airborne Division. After sustaining a back injury during a 
jump, he received a medical discharge. After his army career came to 
an abrupt end, he decided to go into the music field. By this time 
he had become an accomplished guitarist, and was soon to become known 
as the greatest guitarist ever (Stambler, pg. 290).

 However, he did not start out at the top. Jimi started 
out playing as part of the back-up for small time R & B groups. It 
did not take long before his work was in demand with some of the best 
known artists in the field, such as B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, 
Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson, Littler Richard, Wilson Pickett, and 
King Curtis (Clifford, pg. 181). Using the name Jimmy James, he 
toured with a bunch of R & B shows, including six months as a member 
of James Brown's Famous Flames (Stambler, pg. 290).

 At the Cafe Wha! in New York, in 1966, Hendrix decided to try 
singing. Jimi lucked out when a man by the name of Charles "Chas" 
Chandler from Eric Burdon's Animals heard him at the club and thought 
he was sensational. When Chas heard him again later that year, he 
talked Jimi into moving to England where he would really get the 
chance to start his career (Stambler, pg. 290).

 Along with Chas, Hendrix auditioned some musicians to complete 
the new Hendrix group. They choose Mitch Mitchell, a fantastic 
drummer, and Noel Redding, one of England's best guitar and bass 
players (Stambler, pg. 290). In 1966, at the Olympia in Paris, the 
Experience debuted. One year later, the Experience was breaking 
attendance records right and left at European clubs. When the Monkees 
toured England in 1967, they heard Jimi and liked him. The Monkees 
asked Hendrix to join them on their tour through the U.S., and Jimi 
was on his way home (Stambler, pg. 290).

 "Jimi's erotic stage actions, suggestive lyrics, and guitar- 
smashing antics..." did not go over well with the Monkees' fans or 
many adults. Being criticized over and over again forced the 
Experience to be dropped from the tour (Stambler, pg. 290). This 
however did not get Hendrix down. By the end of the year, the group 
was invited to the Monterey Pop Festival. Jimi won a standing ovation 
for the "...nerve-shattering sounds from the group's nine amplifiers 
and eighteen speakers, topped by Jimi dousing his guitar with lighter 
fluid and burning it..." (Stambler, pg. 291).

 Hendrix became popular overnight, and his shows became standing 
room only. His stage acts were so wild, Time magazine described it 
as: "He hopped, twisted and rolled over sideways without missing a 
twang or a moan. He slung the guitar low over swiveling hips, or 
raised it to pick the strings with his teeth; he thrust it between his 
legs and did a bump and grind, crooning: 'oh, baby, come on now, sock 
it to me.'...For a symbolic finish, he lifted the guitar and flung it 
against the amplifiers." Time (April 25, 1968). His specialty became 
the way he used feedback, which up until now was an undesired sound. 
Using his guitar and the feedback it created, he was able to generate 
sounds which were used to his advantage in creating his unique style. 
This style is copied today by modern rock artists; however, this style 
is duplicated today with the use of special equipment, such as 

 Are You Experienced?, Electric Ladyland, Axis: Bold as Love,and 
Smash Hits were all platinum albums. For the year of 1968, Billboard 
named him Artist of the Year; and in August he played a heart-stopping 
performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. His fame did 
not last forever though. In 1969, the Experience broke-up. However, 
Hendrix claimed it was not forever, but was just a chance for the 
members to develop their musical abilities. Then Jimi's drug 
addiction became worse. In Toronto, he was arrested for possession of 
heroin (Stambler, pg. 291).

 None of this held him back from his music though. He played with 
other rock artists such as Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, and their album, 
Band of Gypsy's, won a gold record. In 1969, he was chosen as the 
Artist of the Year by Playboy. His career seemed limitless, but the 
heroin use caught up with him (Stambler, pg. 291). On September 18, 
1970, he was found dead in his room from a drug overdose. He was only 
twenty seven years old. His music has not been forgotten, as it is 
still popular today. If his addiction had not overcome him, he could 
still be revolutionizing the style of rock today.

1.Stambler, Irwin. The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul. New York: 
St. Martin's Press, 1989.

2.Clifford, Mike. The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. New 
York: Harmony Books, 1988

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