Happy Birthday, Jimi Hendrix!
Arguably the greatest rock guitarist of all time, James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942) achieved a reputation that lingered well past the accidental overdose that took his life on September 18, 1970.
Known for his flamboyant stage performances, his singular form of psychedelia, and a wild and reckless lifestyle that all but defined rock-star mores, Hendrix's career was short-lived (his band, the Experience, produced only three studio albums during its short stint of activity), but his legacy remains more vital than ever, thanks to a consistent procession of live recordings, issues of unfinished efforts, and the ongoing efforts of his family's enterprise, Experience Hendrix LLC, which, in conjunction with Sony Records, has made reissues of his work a nonstop endeavor.
Thanks to this steady succession of posthumous offerings and the
obvious influence he's had on other musicians who followed in his wake
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(Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Kirk Hammett, and Billy
Gibbons, among them), it's likely that Hendrix will always maintain a
vital presence as long as rock remains relevant. He's been credited with
helping to introduce both heavy metal and funk into the rock 'n' roll
lexicon, even as his later recordings suggested he was steering toward
Likewise, his core devotion to the blues -- nurtured by his admiration
for B.B. King, Muddy Walters, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, and Albert King
-- helped popularize that idiom among the masses and bring with it
appreciation for its role in rock's evolution. Some of his most
prestigious honors came long after his passing -- a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame, membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an
induction into the United States National Recording Registry (for the
album Are You Experienced), and universal recognition as one of the most important rock artists of all time.
bears noting that when Hendrix himself was asked in a Rolling Stone
interview, "How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the
world?" he suggested the writer direct that question to Irish
guitarist Rory Gallagher instead.)
Still, despite the giant shadow he continues to cast, it's worth noting that when he died at the tragically young age of 27, he was in the midst of launching a new phase in his career, one he hoped would greatly expand his possibilities and allow him to explore new musical horizons. He left behind some 300 unreleased recordings, which, while indicative of his prolific drive, also leave tantalizing hints as to where he might have been headed. At the time of his death, he was working on an album he planned to titleFirst Rays of the New Rising Sun
(tracks from those sessions were originally released in the early '70s asCry of Love
and later reissued under their true title). He had also voiced his intention to incorporate a "blacker" sound into his music; it's said that part of his motivation might have been to reaffirm his connection with that segment of the African-American community that had earlier tried to enlist his moral and financial support for its separatist causes.
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