The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.” Johnny Allen Hendrix, or James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix, began playing guitar at the age of 15. Not in a class, or by private tutor. What makes Jimi’s story so phenomenal is his self-taught background. I guess when you’re the one teaching yourself, there’s room for experimentation in sound.
In 1961, he saw paratrooper action in the Army, honorably discharged to head to his next adventure, somehow managing to strike a relationship with the Isley Brothers and Little Richard as a backing band member.
Jimi moved to England in 1966 to jam with Curtis Knight and the Squires, where he caught the attention of Chas Chandler, bassist for The Animals. The collaboration of minds and sound between Chandler and Hendrix formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience, cranking out three top 10 UK hits in “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.”
In ’67, the US discovered the greatness of their own son of Seattle when Jimi played the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix’ third album, Electric Ladyland, reached number one in the US. Soon, Jimi’s driving guitar sound propelled him to be the highest-paid performer in the world, headlining Woodstock in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.
In late 1970, Jimi’s short run at fame was extinguished when he died of an overdose at the young age of 27. His music lives on as the inspiration for countless artists that have adopted his physical style, his guitar style, and his attitude. Electric Ladyland also lives on not only as an album, but as a recording studio, as Electric Lady studios in New York’s Greenwich Village. The studio not only has hosted Jimi and his friends before his untimely death, but also became the recording spot for albums from Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, AC/DC, The Clash and more.