Jimi Hendrix was one of the most influential and talented musicians of the 20th century, and through his work he made rock music what it is today. His talent with a guitar was what made him so popular in his own time. The reason he became a rock and roll legend in the 20th century was because of his new style, outrageous performances and his powerful lyrics which captivated his audiences. His new style of music involved, “…the extensive use but sensitively nuanced use of feedback, distortion, and other electronically manipulated sound effects.” (“Hendrix, Jimi”). Some found the performances he put on to be crazy or insane, but his fans found them to be inspiring. Nevertheless, “The true power of his genius lay in his musical and lyrical candor.” (Fricke).
On November 27, 1942 at 10:15 Johnny Allen Hendrix was born in King County Hospital. Johnny’s name was changed 4 years later to James Marshal Hendrix, the name he is better know by today. Just a few months after Jimi turned 16 his mother Lucille died. Jimi got his first guitar later in the year of his mother’s death. (“Time Line”) Many people think his heartbreak over his mother’s death is why Jimi turned to the guitar and writing music because, “At its core, Hendrix’s music was all about the blues.” (Fricke). A year later in 1959 Jimi played in his first concert with “The Velvetones”. Then Jimi dropped out of high school to join the army. He was only in the army for about 3 months because he got injured during a mission and was discharged. Less than a year after being discharged from the army Jimi began to play on the R & B circuit. After about 4 years of that Jimi formed his own band called “Jimmy James and The Blue Flames”.
In this band is where he was discovered by a man named Chas Chandler. (“Jimi Hendrix Biography”) Then on October 6, 1966 Jimi Hendrix’s most popular band was formed, “Jimi Hendrix Experience”. Over the course of about 2 years the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their 1st, 2nd and 3rd singles. They also toured in the UK, US, with the Monkeys and Jimi had his now legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. In late 1968 and early 1969 Jimi received Artist Of The Year, Performer Of The Year, and World Top Musician awards. Jimi Hendrix’s career then began a downfall as the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up and Jimi got arrested in Toronto. Jimi formed his last band called Band Of Gypsys and they played a few big concerts in 1970. Then Jimi played his biggest concert in front of 500,000 people at the Atlanta Pop Festival on July 4, 1970. Jimi Hendrix’s last concert was at the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany. Jimi died on September 18, 1970 and just the day before Jimi wrote his last song entitled “The Story of Life”. (“Time Line”)
There were many great musicians in the 20th century, and some people believe that they have had a greater influence than Jimi Hendrix on rock today. There were the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and many other amazing musicians. Each of these artists also produced anywhere from 10-30 albums in their careers and, “…in his life time Jimi Hendrix officially released only three studio albums” (Fricke) With so little music produced for the public how could he have influenced rock in any way at all. There are also other people who think Jimi Hendrix was a bad influence. Jimi Hendrix ran into many problems with the law involving his use of drugs and his anger problems.
Some people feel that if someone influential is using drugs or committing violent acts this is influencing fans and followers in a wrong and potentially harmful way. There are also people who probably just didn’t like his music. “The furor Hendrix created upon his arrival on the London pop scene was unprecedented.” (Fricke) His new style of using lots of electronic sound effects was very different and new, and to some people probably it just sounded like a bunch of noise. If anything, some felt his influence changed rock for the worse.
It is definitely true that there were many great musicians that played a part in influencing rock music and making it what it is today. Those musicians also wrote more albums and had more popular songs than Jimi Hendrix. But having many albums and popular songs isn’t what really influenced the development of rock music or the people who played and wrote rock music. What really influences something is a new and unique style, and that is exactly what Jimi Hendrix provided. He, “did not conform to British fantasies of sharpdressing soul belters grizzled old bluesmen, who played rock & roll guitar…” (Fricke).
The way he took control during a concert using his pure talent with a guitar and the new style he had in his heart, changed the way concerts were to be performed forever. Jimi Hendrix did have a few flaws in his personality, but that doesn’t change his influence in the slightest. His influence came directly from his music and this part of him was flawless. “…simply pulling sounds out of the air and taming them into one seamless whole, accomplishing it with unassailable daring.” (Mitchell)
Jimi Hendrix was one of the most influential and talented musicians of the 20th century, and through his work he has made rock music what it is today.
The combination of that creative drive with his stunning technique, sonic imagination and ingenious, painterly exploitation of effects like wah-wah, feedback, distortion and sheer earthquaking volume transformed rock & roll — and its primary instrument, the electric guitar –forever. Hendrix left an indelible, fiercely individual mark on popular music, accelerating rock’s already dynamic rate of change in the late Sixties with his revolutionary synthesis of guitar violence, improvisational nerve, spacey melodic reveries and a confessional intensity born of the blues. (Fricke)
Although Jimi Hendrix didn’t affect any other fields other than rock music directly, his influence on rock music continues to effect the world today. Many people have various aspects to their personality and Jimi Hendrix was definitely one of them. On his one side he had serious drug and anger problems. This side of him, obviously the bad one, was not the side his fans thought of when they saw his poster on their wall. They thought of his flawless other side in which he was an amazing guitarist, song writer and performer. Jimi Hendrix loved to write music and play his guitar more than anything else in the world, “For Hendrix it was the substance of life.” (Fricke).
Fricke, David. “Jimi Hendrix: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time.” Rolling Stone. February 6, 1992
“Hendrix, Jimi.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University press, 2003.
“Jimi Hendrix Biography.” We’ll Always Remember Jimi Hendrix. (1 December, 2003)
Mitchell, Elvis. “Jimi Hendrix Again, Going Out With a Bang.” New York Times. October 6 2001, :A20
“Time Line”. Jimi Hendrix Online Archive. (3 December, 2003)