by Robert Wilkinson
There's really nothing I could say to add to the legend that is Jimi Hendrix. Today the Sagittarius Fire Guitar Master would have been 69, as impossible as that seems. He left us a magnificent musical legacy, both in terms of performances, guitar technique, and production innovations that have changed the way music is done forever.
A superstar flaming nova 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. His innovative techniques created 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 we remember 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 46 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 once read 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 consummate 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 tornadoes for those who want to check them out. Voodoo Chile indeed!
On with the show! For your enjoyment, here are 37 minutes of Jimi at his best! Check out
Jimi Hendrix- Live at Woodstock '69 His performance of "Red House" is awesome, along with almost everything else he did. Be sure to watch enough of the set to get to 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 (who once served with the 101st Airborne, the "Screaming Eagles") 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 two gems:
From the historic May 1970 Berkeley concert, here's Jimi doing "Voodoo Child (slight return)." From the same concert, Jimi Plays the Star Spangled Banner at Berkeley, along with "Hey Baby New Rising Sun." 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 footage 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! From 1967, "Purple Haze." Here's another live performance from 1967 of Purple Haze performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. These show 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.
Here's Jimi Hendrix and the Experience playing "Purple Haze" on German tv in 1967.
To get a sense of his evolution as a performer these years, please check out the movie "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!"
If you don't want to buy or rent a copy, this year I found Jimi's entire performance on video (except for "Can You See Me") on you tube! The songs are in the order he played them.
The audio-only performance of "Can You See Me."
From Sweden in 1969, a great live performance of Jimi's hit from "Are You Experienced," the frenetic "Fire."
That 1969 Stockholm concert was dedicated to all the draft resisters who fled Amerika to protest our illegal war in Vietnam. For your enjoyment, here's 57 minutes of pure gold!!The Jimi Hendrix Live Concert in Stockholm 1969.
Jimi at the Isle of Wight 1970 doing my personal favorite, "All Along the Watchtower." Bob Dylan, who wrote it, changed the way he did this in concert to this arrangement. I wish I had seen his face the first time he heard this version! Here's another version live in Atlanta from 1970 of "All Along the Watchtower."
Here's a live performance on Maui of the archetypally psychedelic song from his first album, "Foxey Lady." Yes, both spellings are accurate. "Comin' to getcha....." From the same show, two more songs from the "Are You Experienced" album, "Purple Haze" and "Fire," followed by the awesome "Voodoo Child (slight return)" from "Electric Ladyland." Here's a longer version (but worse video) of the same performance of "Voodoo Child." on Maui.
Here's another amazing performance from 1 April 1967 in England of "Wild Thing." From Dec 1967 in the UK, here's another live performance of "Wild Thing." And from 1968, yet another great performance of "Wild Thing."
From Live at the BBC in late 1967, an audio-only version of "Day Tripper."
From 1968, an entire hour long audio-only concert by Jimi Hendrix at Fillmore East, NY
Here's Jimi doing one of his all time signature tunes in 1969 live on the "Happening for Lulu" show. Enjoy a magnificent performance of the legendary "Voodoo Child" and "Hey Joe."
From a live performance in Stockholm in 1969, a great version of the Cream monster hit "Sunshine of Your Love." From the same show, "Hey Joe" and Jimi doing "Red House." Here's a different clip of Jimi at Stockholm doing "Red House."
The original studio version of "Axis Bold As Love," the title song of his second album, featured some of the most extraordinary guitar ever played up to that point in history (especially the last 1 min 20 seconds of the song when he went sonic!) It is said the Experience were hired by Chas Chandler because he needed a rhythm section that could keep up with Jimi's guitar pyrotechnics. You can get a sense of where the Guitar Master was at in this rare audio-only live performance in Milwaukee 1968 by the Jimi Hendrix Experience of "Axis-Bold As Love." Check it out!
Here's an audio-only studio alternate version Jimi doing "Axis Bold As Love." Here's another instrumental audio-only performance of the awesome "Axis - Bold As Love." (Unfortunately, it cuts out just after 4 minutes.)
There are a few that I found that are studio versions I figured I'd include for your enjoyment!
At the recommendation of a reader last year, this year we have an audio-only version of Jimi doing some absolutely astonishing, over the top psychedelic guitar work on "The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice" This was the "B side," or "flip side" of a single (remember them?!) that featured as the "A side" a song that wound up on "Electric Ladyland," "The Burning Of A Midnight Lamp"
From "Axis" (and the "Easy Rider" soundtrack!) the ominous "If 6 Was 9."
From "Electric Ladyland," "House Burning Down."
The awesome "Freedom."
We'll close this birthday tribute with a song covered by countless guitar masters, said to be Jimi's most beautiful composition. For your remembrance, "Little Wing."
On a somewhat related note, here's an interesting 1990 performance by Experience bassist Noel Redding and his Secret Freaks doing "Little Miss Strange," one of the only songs on a Hendrix album written by Noel Redding or Mitch Mitchell. Also from 1990, here's the Rolling Stone interview with Noel Redding.
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 was better than total strangers making money off a dead icon. Here's another "official" Jimi Hendrix website, Jimi Hendrix Foundation.
RIP Jimi, and a Happy 69th in Rock and Roll Heaven. In a few short years you blazed a fiery path across space and time and forged a trail followed by many, many millions of guitarists.
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 and many other blues cats over the years. Thanks for everything, Shorty. I hope we meet again.
© Copyright 2011 Robert Wilkinson