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Hello and Goodbye

Essay by review  •  September 2, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,731 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,270 Views

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Hello and Goodbye

There had been none like him, and there will be none to come. Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the way guitar and music in general is played. It is rare to hear a modern guitarist play and not sense Hendrix's influence. Jimi Hendrix was a mirror of his era in that he epitomized the "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" life style of the late 60s. Hendrix is still immensely popular today because of his unprecedented guitar style coupled with an outrageous lifestyle and stage show.

The legend was born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle to James Allen and Lucille Hendrix. His given name was Johnny Allen Hendrix (White 254). His mother was a Cherokee Indian who had tuberculosis, but despite that she was wild and loved to party (White 254). Leon was Jimi's little brother who was six years his junior (White 254). When Jimi was four, his father took him away from Lucille to make a fresh start. This is when his father renamed him James Marshall Hendrix (Richmond 482). According to Cherokee legend, if a child is named twice it will split his eternal spirit into

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two different parts- half will go to heaven and half will go to hell (White 255). This may have been the underlying cause of Jimi's turbulent youth.

James Hendrix traded in his own saxophone to buy Jimi a guitar (White 255). The prodigy could not read music and so taught himself to play by ear. The guitar his father had bought for him was a right-handed guitar, but Jimi was left-handed, so he adapted by simply turning the instrument upside down and proceeded to play (Richmond 482). At twelve Jimi began to play in local bands for a fee of free burgers and soda pop (Richmond 482). Jimi's early influences were such blues greats as Muddy Waters, BB King, Chuck Berry, and Eddie Cochran (Richmond 482).

Jimi Hendrix dropped out of high school at age 17 and joined the army in 1959 (Vickers). The reason he did this is often debated, as are many facts about his life. Some say it was because he got in trouble with the law. Others say it was because he knew he would be drafted eventually. Whatever the reason, Jimi became a member of the elite Screaming Eagles paratrooper division (Richmond 482). In the service, Jimi became genuinely serious about playing guitar. He was shunned by most of the men in his division after rumors circulated that he slept with and talked to his Stratocaster, which had "Betty Jean" painted on the side in

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memory of an old love (White 255). He played in military clubs on base where he met and befriended bassist Billy Cox, who would become an invaluable ally at the apex of his career (Richmond 482). After breaking his ankle on his 26th parachute jump, Hendrix was honorably discharged in 1961 (Vickers).

After his military stint, Hendrix began to play under the name Jimmy James (Vickers). He toured the South's "Chitlin' Circuit" (Richmond 482) and backed such rock superstars as BB King and Sam Cooke. Jimi got weary of backing other people and formed a short-lived band of his own- "Jimi James and the Blue Flames" (Vickers). After the demise of the Flames, Jimi stayed in the South a little longer working with Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner before moving to New York City (Vickers).

It was in the Big Apple where Jimi truly began to blossom. Experimentation began in Greenwich Village with his trademark feedback and distortion Fuzzbox sounds (Richmond 483). Astonishingly, Jimi could produce the effect of two guitarists playing at one time (Richmond 483). Hendrix was jamming in the Village underground Cafe Wha? when The Animals' bassist Chas Chandler, who loved him and promised to make him a star (Vickers), heard him. Jimi's father recalled a phone conversation with his son soon after

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Chandler took him to London. "It's me Dad. I'm in England.

I've met some people and they're going to make me a big star. We changed my name to J-I-M-I (McDermott 36)." Chas Chandler introduced Hendrix to bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The trio quickly formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Vickers). The music world would never be the same.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played soul tunes, contemporary songs, covers and original songs (McDermott 44). The Experience combined "the verve of rock and the nerve of jazz (Marsh 169)" in a pleasing combination. everything seemed well, but Hendrix was not pleased at all with the quality of his voice. A close friend played Bob Dylan for him constantly, pointing out that it was not the sound quality that mattered, only the sentiment and emotion the singer intoned (McDermott 65). Finally, Jimi consented to sing.

The band's first record release was Are You Experienced? in 1967 (Marsh 169). Although it was a great success, the record never reached number one on the charts- it was held off by the Beatle's Yellow Submarine (Richmond 483). By the summer of 1967, the Experience had completed a European tour of Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. The continent was amazed by Jimi's innovative songs, in

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particular "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze" (Richmond 483). Paul

McCartney heard the Experience in London in 1967, and insisted that they play at the Monterey International Pop Festival (Richmond 484). By that time, rumors of the guitarist had spread to America, and the stage was set (Richmond 484).

The Who preceded Hendrix in the concert's lineup. Their show was mind-blowing, culminated by a destructive rendition of the classic "My Generation" (Richmond 484). Jimi was nervous before the Who's set. "Monterey was great", he said, "I was scared to go up there and play in front of all those people outside. It was like 'Wow! What am I going to do?' (McDermott 92)." His attitude transformed after watching the Who play. He knew he had to go out and win the audience, so he did. The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones introduced the Experience, which really caught the audience's attention (White 256). Hendrix pulled out all the stops at Monterey. Sporting a pink feather boa, he put on quite a show. Jimi played the guitar one handed, behind his head, with his elbow, and with his teeth. The finale of the Experience's show was the sacrifice of Jimi's Stratocaster to fire (Richmond 484). All of this was particularly shocking to the Monterey crowd, which was comprised of California's flower children, long-haired and sleepy-eyed. Most performers



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