From a child who couldn’t afford a ukulele, to the main act at Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix is the most incredible guitar player that has ever lived. Although Jimi only had the privilege to see a few years of his own fame, his legacy and the way he expanded and experimented with the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar has been left behind, and will be remembered forever.
As a young boy, Jimi was very underprivileged. His father suffered with alcoholism and consistently struggled to make ends meet. He was frequently moved from home to home while his
parents separated, leaving Jimi in the care of his grandmother in Vancouver. While helping his father with a side job, he found a ukulele with one string amongst a pile of junk they were removing from a woman’s home. Upon seeing Jimi`s fascination with the ukulele, she let him bring it home. He learned by ear single notes on the one string uke and gained the ability to play along with his favorite songs, especially Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Hound Dog”.
Jimi acquired his first guitar when he was 15 and quickly mastered the instrument. The guitar was right-handed, although Jimi was left-handed. To accommodate this, Jimi flipped the guitar around a played it upside down, which is how he played his guitar for the rest of his career. Jimi`s hands were so big that they wrapped around the fret board completely,
allowing him to play the top 3 strings with his thumb to create the effects of two guitars playing at once, a feat impossible for guitar players with normal sized hands. He also used normally undesired side effects of an electric amplifier like gain and feedback to his advantage, producing never before heard masterpieces.
Gig after gig, band after band, Jimi worked his way up the ladder all the way to the top, although he didn’t like playing the same set over and over because he thought it was boring. With gaining popularity, Jimi hooked up with a British producer who helped him produce “Hey Joe”, which skyrocketed his sound and style even further. He
hooked up with bass player Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, who complemented his folky blues style. Together they formed what is known as “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”.
The Experience was a huge hit and skyrocketed to the top of the charts, earning 1st on the list most of the time,
sometimes falling behind to songs of The Beatles. However, Redding had grown tired of Jimi`s style of jamming and left the group, in which Jimi claims is a “completely new, never before heard” version of the songs preformed. Redding was quickly replaced with Billy Cox.
By 1969, Hendrix was the highest paid rock artist in the world. That year he was asked to headline the Woodstock music festival. Upon Jimi accepting, he was given the very last yet most anticipated performance of the event. His performance included a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”, in which he used the feedback from the amplifier to replicate sounds of explosions and rockets flying. After playing the song in red, white, and blue and not having slept in 3 days, Jimi walked off the stage and collapsed of exhaustion.
Like most musicians during the 60`s and 70`s, Jimi was a heavy user of almost every type of drug. He enjoyed everything from pot to cocaine, but gave way to his girlfriend’s sleeping pills. After taking 18 times the recommended dosage of the barbiturate, he died from asphyxia at age 27. Although Jimi`s living popularity only lasted a few years, his legacy and the way he opened up new possibilities in music has changed the world forever.
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