Hendrix 2 Essay, Research Paper
Jimi Hendrix: Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend
The extraordinary performances, recording, and lyrics of James Marshall Hendrix have
made him impossible to forget. This American rock guitarist made a legendary mark. Not
only in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, but also on pop culture as a whole (Mitchel1 32). With
unique techniques never seen before and blatant sex-related performances on stage, he
became one of the most influential music figures of the 60s (Murray 96).
Hendrix was not born into stardom nor was it given to him by any means. He strived all
throughout his life to be the very best. Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27,
1942 in Seattle, Washington to Al and Lucille Hendrix. Four years later did his father
decided to change his son’s name to James Marshall Hendrix. He did not lead an easy life.
He changed schools quite often and to top it all off his parents divorced in 1958. To add
to it all, his mother died just one year later ( Scuse Me While , Henderson 42). Hendrix
needed something to turn around his life.
Hendrix purchased his first guitar in 1958. It was a used acoustic for which he paid only
five dollars. At the age of seventeen with only one year’s playing experience, he joined his
first band, the Rocking Kings. It may be hard to imagine, but Hendrix was also in the
Army for a brief period of time. He was soon discharged as a result of “medical
unsuitability” after a parachuting accident in which he landed on his ankle ( Scuse Me
While , Henderson 48). He ventured back to his hometown of Seattle and began playing
with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers (Mitchell 68). Hendrix was then quickly
discovered by Little Richard in 1963. He soon regretted the decision because he felt the
tour was degrading, and he was constrained as being a sideman to Richard. His guitar was
used as little more than a background rhythm instrument. Hendrix developed his playing
talent and soon discovered how to gain control and take lead of the music. Unfortunately,
he was never able to get Richard to realize his talents, so he abandoned Richard’s tour in
St. Louis (Mitchell 102). After aimlessly wandering for awhile, Hendrix found himself in
Atlanta and once again teamed up with Little Richard. The tour brought them to Los
Angeles where he then went in his own direction. He hooked up with Richard for a third
time during the summer of 1964 to record an album. He again felt confined as being only
a backup to Little Richard (Mitchell 123).
Hendrix later joined the budding musician Arthur Lee, but the partnership did not last
long as he once again set out in search of his own identity (Mitchell 68). He embarked as
a traveling musician for various tours backing such artists as Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy
Waters, Elmore James, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, King Curtis, Solomon Burke, Chuck
Jackson, Jackie Wilson, and several others (Carter 75). On his next endeavor, he teamed
up with saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood. The pair was short-lived as Hendrix soon split,
and his adventurous spirit ended him up in New York where he rented a small, cheap
apartment and drifted from job to dead-end job (Dannemann 173). Hendrix was a
discombobulated mess. He was running around trying to find himself. His attempts were
taking him in and out of bands.
The spring of 1964 brought better luck to Hendrix. Ronnie Isley of the Isley Brothers
hired him on the spot as lead guitarist after hearing him play. He lived with the group for
a few months, and they actually purchased him his first Fender guitar (Hendrix 236). The
band toured in 1964 and also released some albums. Hendrix was still dissatisfied with his
situation. He grew tired of the group and left the Isleys to join Curtis Knight and the
Squires (Hendrix 153). Not long had the group been playing in the New Jersey area when
Keith Richard, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, caught a glimpse of the stand out guitarist
and wanted to help the young, developing musician. He brought Hendrix to the attention
of important music industry people (Carter 98). On October 15, 1965, Hendrix signed his
first recording contract with Ed Chalpin and PPX Productions in which he was paid a
single dollar and promised one percent royalty on all future record sales (Carter 112).
He formed his dynamic rock band on October 12, 1966 and called it the Jimi Hendrix
Experience, a name that will never be forgotten. The peculiar spelling of his name was of
his manager’s invention. In the group, Hendrix jammed on lead guitar; Noel Redding
played bass, and Mitch Mitchell played drums (Loveless 65). The trio was comprised of
three very different personalities, but Hendrix led them in their eccentric hair and dress
styles, wild stage behavior, and most of all, the unprecedented music the group delivered
to their public (Murray 119). It seemed as if Hendrix, in all his radiance, actually
stimulated the other members of the group when they played on stage together (Jimi
Hendrix , Henderson 108). He created sounds new to the rock ‘n’ roll scene which
included wah-wah, feedback, phasing, fuzz tone, distortion, and other effects. Hendrix
also assimilated different styles of music such as hard rock, jazz, R & B, blues, funk, and
pop to form music with a new twist (Glebbeek 46). He played the guitar with his hands,
feet, legs, and mouth which was chaotic, but also full of expression, emotion, and not to
mention eroticism (Jimi Hendrix , Henderson 24). His music helped rock ‘n’ roll become
a part of growing up in the 60s generation, even though the Experience was often
criticized for getting too violent on stage by destroying instruments during performances
Their first album reached the public in July 1967. It was a bigger hit in England than in
America but spent many weeks on the charts in both countries. The album was certified
platinum, and the popularity of the band sky-rocketed. Tours were rapidly booked, and
the Experience ended up playing on 108 dates in 1967 alone (Cox 298). Along with the
gift of fame came humility as Hendrix’s life became an open book publicized by tabloids
and media. Nevertheless, the band played on (Dannemann 35).
On June 18, 1967 the Experience performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in California.
Hendrix and the other members received an exceptional welcome home to America after
the grueling nine-month tour in England. Over 50,000 members of the hippie subculture
were in attendance at the sold-out concert. Hendrix stunned the entire audience with his
amazing guitar-burning finale. He set fire to his most prized possession, his Fender
Stratocaster, as a heartfelt thanksgiving to his devoted fans (Mitchell 76). Hendrix proved
his legendary talent at the amazing concert and earned the name “acid king of the guitar”
The release of the group’s second album, Axis: Bold As Love, came a year later in
December 1967 after much hard work. The original album recording was lost, and
deadlines caused the band to have to remix it in its entirety in just under eleven hours
(Carter 32). It was certified platinum, and Hendrix gained even more loyal supporters. He
was completely dedicated to his music and not only slept with his guitar but also spent his
every waking moment playing it (Cox 247).
He had already begun work on Electric Ladyland, the Experience’s third album, in the
middle of 1967. The album was a reflection of his life, and the music was filled with
melancholy, angst, loneliness, and fear (Glebbeek 53). It took a year to complete simply
because Hendrix was a perfectionist and strived to get every piece of his music exactly the
way he envisioned it. The hard work paid off as it was the only number one album for
Hendrix. However, the non-stop recording and tour schedules foreshadowed what each of
the members knew would come soon, the end of the Experience (Cox 286).
The band performed almost daily; after spending five months touring throughout eastern
Europe, they came straight to America on February 1, 1968 with no break in between
tours. The final concert played by the Jimi Hendrix Experience was at the Denver Pop
Festival at the end of a U.S. tour (Cox 247). June 29, 1969 brought the end of the
Experience. After Hendrix’s band decided to call it quits, Hendrix made an appearance on
the Tonight Show and was backed by the show’s own house band (Cox 283).
Next, he emerged with an all-black group, the Band of Gypsys, with Billy Cox on bass
and Buddy Miles on drums. Some people believed he did this as a result of the Black
Panthers urging him to speak out during his time of stardom for the black power
movement and redeem rock ‘n’ roll as the rightful music of blacks (Murray 234-6). On
New Year’s Eve of 1969, his new band made their debut at the Fillmore East in New
York. Many fans feel this was the climax of Hendrix’s career, and his set of performances
at the event went down in history as one of the most remarkable rock concerts ever (Cox
The short-lived Band of Gypsys stayed together for five months and only performed a
total of five concerts. Be that as it may, they seemed to encounter many problems during
the brief period of time they were together. The management disliked the fact that all the
members were black, and Hendrix was in dispute over several lawsuits concerning
recording rights (Cox 175). Their funds disappeared fast, and interviews and tours
seemed to drag them down even further. Even so, the group pressed on with their desire
to achieve greatness ( Scuse Me While , Henderson 197) .
The Band of Gypsys was hired to headline the Woodstock Festival, a three day outdoor
concert in August of 1969 with over twenty musical numbers. The event took place on
Max Yasgar’s 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York near the town of Woodstock. The
three-day festival was delayed six days because the hot weather was stifling, and the rain
refused to quit (Jimi Hendrix, Henderson 99). Twenty-mile long traffic jams gave Hendrix
no choice but to be airlifted to the stage. His most striking performance at the event was a
psychedelic rock version of the “Star Spangled Banner” even though he went on stage at
5:00 Monday morning and the crowd of half a million had died down to only a few
thousand. He was paid $125,000 for the event, and the trio went down in history as one
of the highest-paid rock bands ever (Cox 206).
The Band of Gypsys’ self-titled first album was released May 20, 1970 by Capitol Records
and certified gold. Although the perfectionist Hendrix was not really satisfied with the
album, he had no control over it reaching the public because it was part of a contract he
had signed years earlier and was forced to honor (Cox 194). In February 1970, drummer
Mitch Mitchell from the Experience hooked up with Hendrix and Cox to replace Miles on
drums. Not long after, Hendrix and the band traveled to his hometown of Seattle, to
which he had not returned since his departing to enlist in the Army at the age of seventeen.
He received a warm welcome and was awarded an honorarium from the school from
which he had failed to graduate, Garfield High, and was presented with the keys to the city
by the mayor. Before he left once again, Hendrix performed a concert at Sick’s Stadium
to display his gratitude (Cox 207).
He then disappeared from the eyes of the public until it was arranged that he and the band
play in an event at the Magical Garden of the Haleakala Crater on the beautiful Hawaiian
island of Maui. Later that month in 1970, without stopping to rest, the Band of Gypsys
traveled back to New York in celebration of the grand opening of Electric Lady, the
studio which Hendrix had always dreamed of creating. Recorded in this studio was the
very last album before the death of Hendrix, Cry of Love (Cox 216). To finish paying the
costs of the newly opened studio, Hendrix was forced to return to touring (Loveless 35).
The traveling never seemed to end; from New York, the band was on their way to Europe
where they were to begin yet another exhausting series of concerts. They were tired, and
in England they faced non-stop rain and an uncontrollable audience. The tour pressed on
and the three members of the group made their way to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Denmark,
Copenhagen, Berlin, and finally the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany where the concert took
place on September 6, 1970. It turned out to be a disaster filled with a crowd of angry
German bikers. The crowd actually chanted “go home” to Hendrix (Mitchell 103). After
the tour was dragged out to its end, Hendrix returned to England to stay with his
girlfriend Monika Dannemann. He tried his best to remain in solitude and missed
important meetings pertaining to his contracts and other career business (Carter 90).
The life of this amazing man ceased to an abrupt and all too hasty end on September 18,
1970 when he was but twenty-seven years old. He became ill from a mixture of wine and
quinalbarbitone, a sleeping pill prescribed not to Hendrix but to his girlfriend (Mitchell
208). When the ambulance was called, they rushed to his London hotel and dashed him
back to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The attendants had
carelessly laid him on his back; as a result of their ineptitude, he asphyxiated in his own
vomit (Mitchell 213).
Fortunately, the tragic death of this young man came after rather than before he had
contributed so much to the rock ‘n’ roll era of the 60s. Not only did he inspire black
musicians to persevere in their careers, but he also influenced the entire pop culture with
his unprecedented music and stunning performances. In the eyes of many Americans, the
legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix will live on forever.
1. Carter, Nancy. Fulton, Meatball. Hendrix, Jimi. Hendrix Speaks Sound Recording; the
Jimi Hendrix Interviews. Santa Monica, CA: Rhino Records, 1990.
2. Cox, Billy. Kramer, Eddie. McDermont, John. Jimi Hendrix Sessions: The Complete
Studio Recording Sessions, 1963-1970. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
3. Dannemann, Monika. The Inner World of Jimi Hendrix. New York: St. Martin s Press,
4. Glebbeek, Caesar. Shapiro, Harry. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy. New York: St.
Martin s Griffin, 1995.
5. Henderson, David. Jimi Hendrix; Voodoo Child of the Aquarian Age. Garden City,
NY: Doubleday, 1978.
6. Henderson, David. Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix. New
York: Bantam Books, 1983.
7. Hendrix, Jimi. Nitopi, Bill. Cherokee Mist: the Lost Writings. New York: Harper
8. Loveless, Belmo. Loveless, Steve. Jimi Hendrix: Experience the Music. Burlington,
Ontario, Canada: Collector s Guide Pub., 1998.
9. Mitchell, Mitch. Platt, John. Hendrix Experience. New York: Harmony Books, 1990.
10. Murray, Charles Shaar. Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Post- War
Rock n Roll Revolution. New York: St. Martin s Press, 1991.