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If there is one solo musician who defines the 60s, it has to be Jimi Hendrix: the clothes; the stage presence; the memorable performances at Woodstock, Monterey and the Isle of Wight; the innovative talent and the excesses of drink and drugs.
Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in November 1942, his father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix. Hendrix was raised in Seattle but spent much of his childhood in Vancouver living with his grandmother.
Hendrix got his first guitar at the age of 15. He practiced constantly, observed other guitarists play and picked up tips from other players. He also drew on his blues and jazz influences when playing. Hendrix is also quite exceptional in that he played a right-handed guitar re-stringed and played left-handed, contributing to his unique sound.
Although he became famous in his own right first in the UK, Hendrix had earned his stripes as a session guitarist for the Isley Brothers and Little Richard during the early 60s.
Linda Keith, who was friends with The Rolling Stones, saw potential in Hendrix. She introduced him to Chas Chandler, then bassist with The Animals, who was particularly impressed with Hendrix’s version of ‘Hey Joe’. Chandler assembled the band The Jimi Hendrix Experience featuring Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass.
Paul McCartney was instrumental in Hendrix’s success in the US, recommending that he played the Monterey International Pop Festival. It was on stage at Monterey that he set his guitar on fire. This now legendary performance was captured on film as part of the ‘Monterey Pop’ concert documentary.
Hendrix greatly admired The Beatles, so much so that he performed the title track from ''Sgt. Pepper’s 'Lonely Hearts Club Band'' just three days after the album was released. Perhaps taking a cue from his musical heroes, Hendrix made use of experimental recording effects and wah-wah and fuzz pedals.
After successful album releases such as ‘Are You Experienced?’ and ‘Electric Ladyland’, The Jimi Hendrix Experience disbanded when Redding left to form his own band. Mitchell was missing from the band line-up for Hendrix’s seminal performance at Woodstock in August 1969, made memorable by the improvised rendition of ‘Star Spangled Banner’.
Jimi Hendrix passed away in September 1970 at the age of 27, the same age as Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin when they died. The circumstances around his death have never been fully established, but the two most credible reasons involve drink and prescription drugs. He is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in Washington State along with the remains of his father and grandmother. A carving of a Fender Stratocaster, Hendrix's chosen guitar, marks the site.
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