Few figures loom larger in rock's collective psyche than Jimi Hendrix. The most influential guitar player of the Sixties has transcended his own era to become one of those universal figures whose appeal stretches across generations.
Jimi Hendrix is for all time. Today, young guitarists study Hendrix's trail-blazing guitar technique the way aspiring musicians once studied Mozart and Beethoven.
But Jimi was no mere virtuoso. He was also an imaginative songwriter, ultra-soulful vocalist and a dynamic, charismatic live performer.
James Marshall Hendrix was born in Seattle on November 27, 1942. He started messing around with a cheap ukulele sometime around 1955, later graduating to acoustic guitar, then electric. He played left-handed, a trait which became a cornerstone of his trademark guitar style. Hendrix played with a few local rock bands as a teen, but his true musical education took place on the "chitlin' circuit" during the early Sixties -- endless one-nighters across the American South, backing artists like: The Isley Brothers, Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and The Impressions. He also recorded as a sideman with saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, The Isleys and singer Curtis Knight. By 1965, Jimi was in New York playing the Greenwich Village clubs. It was there that he was discovered by Chas Chandler, former bassist with The Animals, who had decided to embark on a career in management. In 1966, Chandler brought Hendrix to England, where his R&B roots fused with the amped-up excitement of swinging London guitar bands like The Who and The Yardbirds. Jimi teamed-up with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Beatles, Stones, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and other members of London's pop aristocracy all showed up at early Experience gigs and paid court to the exotic and astounding American musician who'd arrived in their midst.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience's debut album, "Are You Experienced" was a high point in the banner rock and roll year of 1967. That same year saw Hendrix's triumphant return to the States to play at the Monterey Pop Festival. His flamboyant, axe-burning, sex-charged performance quickly established him as a rock icon: the first black entertainer to enjoy massive popularity with the primarily white, newly-psychedelicized rock audience. Singles like "Foxy Lady" and "Purple Haze" became instant anthems for the peace and love generation. Hendrix's bold tonal experiments with guitar feedback, harmonics and distortion had permanently expanded rock's musical possibilities.
January of 1968 brought "Axis: Bold as Love", an album that expanded Jimi's sixstring flame with celestial clarity and also brought his rapidly evolving songwriting gift to the fore. By the time "Electric Ladyland" came out later that year, Jimi's restless genius had expanded to embrace the entire recording studio. Produced by Hendrix, the album broke new ground in the then nascent field of sound mixing.
"Electric Ladyland" was the last all-original studio album released during Hendrix's lifetime. The Experience broke up in 1969 and Hendrix formed a new group, the Band of Gypsys, with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox (an old high school friend). They released a concert album, "Band of Gypsys", recorded live at the Fillmore East on New Year's Day, 1970. It is considered by many to be the ultimate rock concert album. Hendrix was also one of the first rock artists to build his own recording studio -- Electric Lady in New York City -- and was at work on a new album when he died on September 18, 1970, in London. He was 27 years old.
The material he was working on just prior to his death was posthumously released on three albums in the early Seventies, " The Cry of Love " (1971), "Rainbow Bridge" (1972), and "War Heros" (1972), mingled with outtakes and other stray tracks. This year, for the first time ever, Jimi Hendrix's last studio album will be released as a single complete set, "First Rays of the New Rising Sun". The set was assembled by Hendrix's longtime engineer and co-producer Eddie Kramer and noted Hendrix historian John McDermott, who have attempted to put together as nearly as possible the album Jimi would have released, had he lived to finish it.
The First Rays project is one of many completed under the aegis of Experience Hendrix, the company recently formed by the artist's surviving relatives -- his father, Al, and half sister, Janie Hendrix -- who regained legal rights to Jimi Hendrix's artistic legacy in 1995. This year will also see the global re-release of "Electric Ladyland," "Axis: Bold as Love," and " Are You Experienced," albums Hendrix put out during his lifetime, re-mastered for the first time, from the original master tapes and with all the original artwork restored. The international re-release (exclusive of Canada and the U.S.) of the re-mastered "Band of Gypsys" concert album is also scheduled for this year.
Each succeeding rock generation discovers Jimi Hendrix anew and claims him as its own. His music will live on, into the coming century and beyond. Bio Taken from Jimi Hendrix Backstage Pass
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