"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky."
—Purple Haze, source of the most famous Mondegreen of all time
James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970) was an American musician and is widely regarded as one of, if not the best electric guitarist of all time. After playing in back-up bands for artists like Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, he rose to prominance as the lead singer and guitarist in his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. First achieving success in England, his American breakthrough was at 1967's Monterey Pop Festival, where he managed to upstage The Who having destroyed their instruments by setting his guitar on fire. Hendrix later played on the notorious 1969 Woodstock festival, where his performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" pretty much revived a very tired crowd, and the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival. Died early at the age of 27 of a drug overdose, the second (only a few months after Brian Jones) of several prominent rock artists to die at that age (although his blues roots have led some to say that he merely moved the curse from blues to rock, as the legendary Robert Johnson had died at 27, too).
Hendrix was highly influenced by the Blues and Jazz, and in particular solo guitarists working in that genre. In turn he as codified techniques and trends many other bands and artists had used, such as amplified feedback (done before by Jeff Beck of The Yardbirds, Pete Townshend of The Who and originally by Dave Davies after mutilating his amplifier), use of wah-wah pedals (done earlier by Eric Clapton in Cream) and his extended over-the-top solo performances (Eric Clapton before him again). This helped establish the electric guitar as a unique sound rather than an amplified version of the acoustic guitar (again, Clapton was really first on Beano). While people would credit The Beatles' song "Helter Skelter" and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" with helping start the Heavy Metal genre, many credit Hendrix as the artist who really set that ball in motion with his hard music that a supposed music magazine article described as "like bars of metal raining down on the stage."
This all having been said, however, Jimi's guitar work combined with his exceptional songwriting and composition, his experimental albums that did not stay strictly in one genre of music, and his aforementioned outrageous stage theatrics earned him enough of a reputation to make him one of the most prominent rock performers of the late 60s. Not for nothing was he selected as Woodstock's last artist to perform, after all. Ironically, this popularity wasn't quite reflected on radio in his lifetime, as related in a documentary produced after his death. Black radio, at the time entrenched in the likes of Aretha Franklin, James Brown and the roster of Motown Records amongst other, more straightforward rhythm and blues artists, wanted little to do with his heavy rock guitar sound. And many white rock radio stations, places one might have thought would be a more natural home for his songs, simply thought he sounded "too black." Contrasting this with his frequently standing-room only crowds says a lot about the tastes of radio programmers compared to their audiences.
While many today mention him as the most influential guitarist of the era, it was only after his death. Back when he was alive he was still second behind both Eric Clapton (his idol) and Jeff Beck. Regardless of this, multiple guitarists who came after him were indeed influenced by both his work and his on-stage theatrics, including Ernie Isley, a latter-day member of the Isley Brothers, the same group Jimi used to play back-up for.
Two of his most famous songs are "Purple Haze" and his cover of the Bob Dylan classic "All Along The Watchtower".
Well I'm standing next to a mountain
- Cover Version: Many, including B. B. King's "Rock Me Baby", Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", and Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" and "Like a Rolling Stone". Dylan himself has said he prefers Hendrix's version of "Watchtower" to his own.
- Dead Artists Are Better: After his death in 1970, Jimi changed from merely a quite popular guitarist to one of the great legends of Rock.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Hendrix was famous for using his guitar for visual innuendos when performing.
- Epic Rocking: "Machine Gun", among others.
- Gratuitous Panning
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Actually he was, but rather than find or produce a left-handed guitar, he simply flipped over a Stratocaster and played it upside down. See the page image.
- At least one biography claims that Jimi was actually ambidextrous, while slightly more southpaw.
- Incendiary Exponent: Smashing guitars not shocking enough? Try setting them on fire first!
- I Thought It Meant: Hendrix had mentioned to Track Records that he wanted the cover of Axis: Bold as Love to reflect his "Indian" (read: Native American) heritage. Whoever got put in charge of making the cover completely misunderstood the request, and the album came out with a kitschy take on Indian (read: subcontinent) religious imagery on the cover.
- Last Chorus Slow-Down: Noticeable in "Voodoo Child".
- Lyrical Dissonance
- Murder Ballad ("Hey Joe")
- Now That's Using Your Teeth: Using them to play guitar!
- Rated "M" for Manly: As Bill Hicks once put it...
"This guy had a dick. Like an anaconda head, swinging in the wind."
- Refuge in Audacity: The original cover of Electric Ladyland was simply a large group of nude women (that's front and back cover). This cover somehow managed to survive being used in the UK, but the USA (and later CD) version of the album uses Karl Ferris' psychedelic portrait. Interestingly enough, none of these were approved by Hendrix: he had explicitly told his record label that for the cover he wanted a Linda McCartney photo of him with some children, but the label proceeded to ignore him and pick what ended up on the final product.
- Rockers Smash Guitars: Set them on fire, actually.
- Rock Trio: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- And Band Of Gypsys.
- Self-Deprecation / Deadpan Snarker: His onstage banter was filled with both.
- Serious Business: His songs and likeness were the most difficult to license for Guitar Hero: World Tour, and part of the deal was that it would be impossible to use his characters to play songs he didn't sing. Even before then, the original Guitar Hero had a cover version of Spanish Castle Magic that had to be an instrumental, because even Jimi's voice is serious business to his estate. However, Hendrix was finally brought to the series in Lego Rock Band, with "Fire" appearing as it's full, original studio version with vocals and no sign of Jimi himself (Lego or otherwise) in sight. Later, the entire contents of "Axis: Bold as Love" album came to the Rock Band Music Store.
- "Crosstown Traffic" is in Rock Band 3 and more DLC kept coming. At this point, Harmonix has managed to include a huge chunk of his discography.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll (it eventually lead to his untimely death from an apparent drug overdose)
- Short-Lived, Big Impact: One of the most influential guitarists of all time; the "burn the strings" guitar solo was invented by him, and just about every hard rocker since has imitated it. He was also dead by age 27.
- Something Blues: "Earth Blues", "Country Blues", "Catfish Blues" and "Slow Blues"
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Castles in the Sand", "The Wind Cries Mary","Sweet Angel", "Little Wing".
- Technician Versus Performer: Despite his clear technical skills, he was closer to the Performer end of the spectrum. Had virtually no formal musical training, could barely even read music, but was blessed with natural talent and near-perfect pitch. Nobody taught Jimi how to play; HE JUST KNEW, man...
- Textless Album Cover: Electric Ladyland