Eclectic, insane, unprejudiced, visionary, poet. In two words: Jimi Hendrix, the man who in the 1970s made the history of the electric guitar.
It was 1966, Cafe Wha in New York. Jimi Hendrix was on stage, playing a quite aggressive reinterpretation of Billy Roberts’ Hey Joe. In the crowd there was Chas Chandler, The Animals’ drummer: in the end of that night he called Hendrix and he asked him to come in England, to show what he could do with the guitar and to meet Eric Clapton. Arrived overseas, the next step was to get in touch with other musicians that could fit to the sound he had in mind, and after some auditions came up the setting of the power-trio, quite common in those days. The musicians were the bassist Noel Redding and the drummer Mitch Mitchell, both British. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.
The trio proved to be something completely new in Europe and managed to surprise guitarists like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. The Who did their best to make Hendrix join their label. The first single released was Hey Joe, and after that Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary, both very successful.
With the album Are You Experienced, the trio gain huge popularity, arriving in the high positions of UK chart, second only to The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But The Experience needed to get known also in the US and the opportunity came in 1967, when the band was invited to the Monterey International Pop Festival. Hendrix accepted imemdiately and became the protagonist of one of the most significant and revolutionary performances of music history. 40 minutes of his best guitar skills, play it in all ways possible, even simulating sex with it. After last song, Wild Thing, the famous act: he sets fire to his Stratocaster, like a Voodoo rite, throwing it against the stage and the amplifiers. Hendrix will comment that night years later, with these words: “The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.”
That was not Hendrix’ only shocking performance. Another one took place in Woodstock in 1969, when guitarist insisted on being the last performer. He had a clear idea about what would happen at the end of the concert: after the performance, among the general public’s surprise, he started to playing the notes of Star Spangled Banner, the American anthem. His version will enter history as a strong metaphor against Vietnam war, evoked by whistles and explosions generated by his Fender and amplified by the Marshall system.
Destined to stay in the collective musical memory, Jimi Hendrix died just 27 years old, drowned on his own vomit, leaving a musical repertoire that inspired many subsequent generations.
The is no better way to close an article in his memory, than using his two most famous quotes, the one that best represents his spirit:
“Technically, I’m not a guitar player, all I play is truth and emotion”
“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music“