by Robert Wilkinson
There's really nothing I could say to add to the legend that is Jimi Hendrix. Today he would have been 65 years old, as impossible as that seems. A star for only 4 years, he changed the face of music forever, not just in terms of guitar sonics, but also through his pioneering use of the studio to create effects that have been studied in countless advanced music engineering and production courses in colleges around the world over the decades since the debut of "Electric Ladyland." Today I've found a few videos to remind you of this extraordinary Sagittarian Fire god and musical genius.
From All Music Guide, a fitting intro in case you have lived in another Solar system these past 40 years:
In his brief four-year reign as a superstar, Jimi Hendrix expanded the vocabulary of the electric rock guitar more than anyone before or since. Hendrix was a master at coaxing all manner of unforeseen sonics from his instrument, often with innovative amplification experiments that produced astral-quality feedback and roaring distortion. His frequent hurricane blasts of noise and dazzling showmanship -- he could and would play behind his back and with his teeth and set his guitar on fire -- has sometimes obscured his considerable gifts as a songwriter, singer, and master of a gamut of blues, R&B, and rock styles.
I remember reading of a meeting between Jimi and the legendary Son House, one of the three "Fathers of the Blues." It is said that upon hearing Jimi, Son House proclaimed him "the One." In case you don't know who Son House was, he was the source and inspiration for Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. As an aside, it is generally accepted that W.C. Handy is THE "Father of the Blues," with Jelly Roll Morton the third though Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, and Blind Willie Johnson also are in contention for the third spot. In the interest of equal time, the "Mothers of the Blues" were Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ida Cox., with Mamie Smith and Alberta Hunter also in contention.
Anyway, enough blues history. Jimi was the consumate performer, fusing blues, jazz, and rock in a unique blend that no one before or since has ever done. In these videos you will see things done with a guitar never done before in history. On a final historical note, for those into supernatural trivia, there are also some very interesting timing connections between Jimi's life, Robert Johnson's life, and the jukejoint he was killed in involving whirlwinds and tornados for those who want to check them out. Voodoo Chile indeed!
On with the show! For your enjoyment, here are 57 minutes of Jimi at his best! Check out
Jimi Henrix- Live at Woodstock '69 His performance of "Red House" is awesome, along with amost everything else he did, and for sure don't miss the most incredible version of "The Star Spangled Banner" ever done! (I was in college at the time it hit the airwaves, and it sure flipped out warmongers and hypocritical patriots everywhere.) Jimi wanted to replicate the sounds of war, bombs, and planes, and succeeded in high style. Stick around for "Purple Haze" if you want to see some unbelievable guitar mastery.
I don't quite know how to follow the previous video, since it's a full set of the Master at his finest. Still, if you want more, here's a gem:
Jimi Plays the Star Spangled Banner at Berkeley in May 1970. After Woodstock and before his untimely death that Summer at age 27, you can see an on-going transformation in just a few months. As a bonus, check out the home movie mootage of a very young Jimi with a sax in his hands, courtesy of Al, his musician father. You'll have to endure an obnoxious ad up front, but the performance is worth it.
Here's an early Hendrix classic in black and white! Purple Haze performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967. Obviously a Warner Bros. promo clip, it shows him just after he exploded onto the scene. When I first heard "Purple Haze" I knew the world had been changed in a big way. To get a sense of his evolution as a performer these years, please go rent or buy a copy of "Monterrey Pop," the D.A. Pennebaker classic film of the world's first Rock Festival where Jimi was introduced to America "up close and personal" when he burned his guitar on stage to finish his set. Talk about different - "Thank you very much for Bob Dylan's grandmother... I don't think I'm losing my mind....We're going to do the English and American combined anthem together... Wild Thing!"
Here's Jimi doing "Red House" at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970, just before his death.
There are some ads at the front end of these videos, so again, please be patient
Here's a rare studio instrumental version of the awesome "Axis - Bold As Love" done by the Experience, who it is said were hired by Chas Chandler because he needed a rhythm section that could keep up with Jimi's guitar pyrotechnics. No video, but this version is hauntingly beautiful, and eclipses what we were given on the album.
This interview tape with Noel Redding, bassist for the Experience, recounts the making of one of the only songs on a Hendrix album not written by Jimi, a song by Noel called "Little Miss Strange."
Here's a very brief clip, complete with EVTV1 banal comments superimposed on unbelievable b/w footage of the Jimi Hendrix Experience doing "Voodoo Child." Too bad they didn't have less commenting and more performance footage!
And of course, you can always go to Jimi Hendrix.com to get all the history, products, and commercialization of Jimi anyone could want. I suppose his dad managing Jimi's legacy is better than total strangers making money off a dead icon.
RIP Jimi, and a Happy 65th in Rock and Roll Heaven. In a few short years you blazed a fiery path across space and time.
ps. Thanks to Guitar Shorty for marrying Jimi's step-sister and teaching Jimi so many great licks, as well as major stage showmanship! I had the rare privilege of meeting Shorty a while ago when I was doing camera work at Kulaks Woodshed in LA for their live webcasts, and got to hang with this classy, elegant blues Master off and on for an entire evening. Though relatively unknown, he is a true blues Master. For those who need official cred, he won the W.C. Handy award, tops for the blues. His flashy stage show predates Jimi's and involves things like playing guitar behind his back and other showboat techniques used by Hendrix. Thanks for everything, Shorty. I hope we meet again.
© Copyright 2007 Robert Wilkinson