Jimi Hendrix: The Epitome Of A Legend

“There must be some kind of way out of here…” is the first lyric sung so prophetically by Jimi Hendrix on “All Along The Watchtower” recorded in 1970, the same year Jimi Hendrix passed away mysteriously. Regarded as one of greatest musicians to ever record, Saturday 18th September 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of his death in London, England.

James Marshall Hendrix, otherwise known to the world as Jimi Hendrix played his last show in the area of Soho located within the city of Westminster in late summer of 1970. Little did those people at that concert know it would be the last time we would hear something from the virtuoso guitarist and singer/songwriter.

Forty years after his passing, a multitude of recording artists have come and gone having been inspired by his legendary stature. Contemporary artists across different genres speak on the brilliance of him as an influence and a pioneer to their own production methodologies.

After his discharge from the army in 1962, Hendrix set out to forge a path to become a musician. Between the years of 1963-1970, Jimi Hendrix left his indelible fingerprints on different genres of music. His first recordings were held with the iconic Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and other coterminous soul, R&B and blues artists as a backing band member on the TOBA circuit of the early 1960s. TOBA was an acronym for Theater Owners’ Booking Association and sarcastically known as “Tough on Black Asses” because the audiences were demanding of the performers. It was also widely known as the Chitlin’ Circuit and the very place where Hendrix enriched his playing style.

In early 1964, he was offered a guitarist position with the nonpareil group, The Isley Brothers, after winning first prize at the Apollo Theater for his playing talents. Later on that same year, he went on to record and perform with the incomparable Little Richard. Lasting through the end of 1965, he performed and recorded off and on alongside The Isley Brothers, Little Richard and other soul acts of the time period.

His band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience received their big break when his group was signed to a management and production contract in 1966. They released their first album, Are You Experienced, which featured the singles “Hey Joe” “Stone Free” “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary.”

The singles were all UK Top 10 hits and were also popular internationally including Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and Hendrix’s popularity grew instantaneously in Europe during this time and had yet to be embraced by the United States audience. Not until Paul McCartney of the Beatles recommended his group to the organizers of the Monterey International Pop Festival. It was here where his unsurpassed talent was on full display for many aficionados of pop music.

The group’s next two albums, Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland, were also well received by the public at large. Axis: Bold as Love embraced the stylistic approach of Are You Experienced, but Electric Ladyland went into a different experimental direction due to the vacancy left by Chas Chandler, Hendrix’s studio engineer.

Axis: Bold as Love spawned the hit “Little Wing” while Electric Ladyland contained monsters such as “Voodoo Chile” “Crosstown Traffic” and “All Along the WatchTower.” While recording Axis: Bold as Love, Hendrix had to record a solo album entitled Band of Gypsys due to a contractual dispute and the album was the only live album recorded by Hendrix during his lifetime.

His eclectic fashion sense came from his obsession with Bob Dylan. It was one of the many things that made him stand out from his contemporaries. He was also known for his stage antics by playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back upside down. His musical voice and guitar style were exemplar, later imitated by others, but never duplicated. He left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings, which exemplify his unparalleled work ethic.

His career and death grouped him with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones, a group of profound 1960s rock stars who suffered drug-related deaths literally within months of each other. Circumstances around his death remain a mystery to this day.

One can only imagine the music they would have blessed the world with if they lived longer. Drug use and foul play have been the two theories that have reigned supreme over other justifications, but his death still remains unsolved.

To his credit, his creativity did much to further the development of the electric guitar, the hard rock, funk rock and heavy metal genres. His skill set and improvisation took blues and propelled it to even greater heights. His music has also had a great influence on the worlds of funk and Hip Hop, with many legends from each genre citing inspiration from his unquestioned genius.

Voted by Rolling Stone, Guitar World and a plethora of other magazines and polls as the best electric guitarist of all time, the icon is currently enshrined in the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame. With eleven studio albums released posthumously, Hendrix ranks 94th on the list of 100 best-selling music artists in US history and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.

Jimi Hendrix, in life and in death, undoubtedly is the epitome of a legend.

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