Hendrix Essay, Research Paper
James Marshal Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942; a ‘black’ American of African, European, Cherokee Indian and Mexican descent. An unsettled home environment made Jimi spend much of his early years staying with his grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, in Canada.
His mother died when Jimi was 15 about the same time as Jimi began to take a serious interest in music and playing the guitar. When he was 12 he got his first electric guitar – the instrument which shaped the next 16 years of his life.
At the age of 16, Jimi was thrown out of school -apparently for holding the hand of a white girl in class – and he played rock’n'roll in teenage bands before voluntarily joining the army at 17.
After 14 months as a paratrooper, learning a lot about falling and flying, he suffered an injury and was discharged. He decided to enter the music field.
The following four years were hard work touring the States playing back-up guitar for various R&B bands including Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, the Isley Brothers and the late King Curtis among others. The conditions were not suited to his radical temperament and eventually he was drawn to New York ’s Greenwich Village where he recorded with the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight and various other artists.
Then in late 1965 he formed his first band – Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. They worked the Village clubs where he was seen by other musicians who immediately recognized his talent, and word of this young virtuoso reached ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler. Chas was so impressed after hearing him play he offered to become his manager and persuaded Jimi to accompany him back to England.
England at this stage – late 1966 – was musically ruled by bands such as The Who, The Beatles and Cream with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck standing alone as the three leading exponents of the electric guitar.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell behind the drums and suddenly there was this black guy on the scene doing things with his guitar that were just not possible. Respect from his peers and adoration from the crowds was instantaneous. They toured Europe, breaking attendance records at one club after another, and then signed a recording contract.
A series of singles that all gained top 10 rank, followed. ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The Wind Cries Mary ‘ made Jimi a star in England, setting the stage for his Monterey appearance.
Jimi’s spectacular performance, which he ended by holding his burning guitar above his head, at the Monterey Pop Festival, re-introduced him to a wildly receptive American audience, and instantly made him an American celebrity.
From then on his albums sold millions in America and his tours were sell-outs. That year, 1967, was his big year, with 4 singles and 2 albums in the British charts and two albums on the American charts.
However once established as an idol he was frustrated by blind audience reaction. He would smash his guitar to pieces because he felt he’d played so badly and find the crowd loving it all the more. His mood and sometimes violent temperament closed in on him with the loneliness of stardom and he became at times unapproachable to even his closest friends. During ‘68 he was jailed in Sweden for completely wrecking a hotel room but the records he produced during these years were decades ahead of his contemporary’s work – ‘Are You Experienced?’ and ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ are still practically untouched by the passing of time.
In 1968 ‘Electric Ladyland’, was released producing the hit ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and after his death ‘Voodoo Chile’ The album was not well received, but consists of four sides of simply amazing, technically brilliant guitar work and Jimi’s startling, colorful, lyrics full of mystical imagery.
The Experience split up in 1969 and Jimi joined up with Billy Cox to play at Woodstock, where he played his politically tinted ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and one other tune before walking off the stage as it “wasn’t coming together.”
Jimi lay low for a while and then formed a short-lived group with major rock artists Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. The group recorded one album ‘Band Of Gypsies’ in 1970 and it became a major hit.
He returned to England in August 1970 with Mitch Mitchell back behind the drums and played at the 3rd Isle Of Wight festival with a renewed vigour, reminiscent of his earlier days, just after he had opened his own Electric Ladyland Studios.
What followed was a diary of events. Hendrix left the Isle Of Wight for a tour of Europe. Something had gone wrong during the tour and one of the band, Billy Cox – the bass player, had a nervous breakdown and was flown home to the States. The last concert on September 14 was blown out and Hendrix returned to London.
On Tuesday, 15 th, having booked himself into the Cumberland Hotel, Hendrix was due to meet with lawyers representing rival backers and managers. He didn’t show. He’d stayed the night before with a German girl, Monika Nanneman at her flat in the Notting Hill area of London. Although he left to go to the business meeting, he next showed up at a flat in the Fulham Road area.
It belonged to a girl who worked in the Chelsea Drug Store, Lorraine James. How or why he chose her flat isn’t known but she described his arrival: “He was obviously high on drugs and he had a lot of cannabis on him. He was in a terrible state,highly nervous”. He spent several hours on a pay phone in the building. He was complaining about his backers and financial affairs. That night, Lorraine watched him spend the night with two American chicks; they were at it until five in the morning.
Wednesday was spent looking for drugs,visiting houses around London.Hendrix was “out of his mind”.One guy they met was so bad,he jumped a couple of flights down a stair well.He was taken to hospital with broken legs.With all this going on,Hendrix got weird and ran around the house screaming. Thursday,like any normal person after the excess of the previous days,Hendrix was unconscious in a girlfriend’s flat in the Fulham area during the day.That night,it was back to the usual routine.
The following day – Thursday, he was down to business. He called his New York attorney, spoke to Chandler about a cover design for the new record and booked a flight to New York to collect the tapes for it.
There was also a meeting arranged with one of his old managers, Ed Chaplin but Hendrix didn’t turn up. There was a note in the margin: Ed Chaplin, for once having had a contract with Hendrix,was bought-off with a deal that gave him the rights to one album in the U.S.,a percentage of earnings and a million bucks!
There was another version of what had gone down.It was Monika’s own account of events. Jimi arrived at her flat on Tuesday. What happened on Wednesday isn’t clear but Thursday she describes as being taken up with shopping and taking photos.
They got home about 8.30 p.m. Monika prepared a meal.They shared a bottle of wine and talked and played music until 1.40 or 1.45 a.m. when Hendrix said he had to go out and see some people. They weren’t friends of his – Monika could not go with him but she could take him there and bring him home.She picked him up again at the back of 3.On their return to the flat, Monika made Jimi a tuna fish sandwich.The two of them went to bed and talked until 7 a.m. when Monika took a sleeping pill and fell asleep.
Some time after,Hendrix took at least eight,possibly nine of the same tablets. Monika woke around 10.20. Hendrix was sleeping normally.She had planned to go out for cigarettes but just before leaving, she noticed vomit on Jimi’s nose and mouth.She tried to wake him but couldn’t and called a friend (possibly Chandler) to ask what to do. An ambulance was called.It arrived about 11.20 a.m. Hendrix was seated upright in the back with no head support.Sometime in the next twenty-five minutes before they arrived at St. Mary Abbot’s Hospital,Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit. He was pronounced D.O.A.
The pathologist reported a large amount of Seconol in Jimi’s blood but no reason to assume that suicide was the cause of death.