Born in a time full of discrimination, war, crime, and drugs, Jimi Hendrix decided to fully immerse himself in the music culture. Not only did he do this with a variety of textures cloaking the sounds streaming out of bottleneck slides and psychedelic dreams, but Jimi also played with an array of faces and musicians who made gorgeous melodies to accompany his delicate lyrics.
This article will not only give you some in-depth information on the life of Jimi Hendrix, but also give you some insight on the best vinyl records he’s ever released, as well as 10 unforgettable songs that have defined who he was an artist (with the addition of his musical colleagues, who helped make the experience everything it could possibly be).
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Before The Fame
Born in 1942, James Marshall Hendrix (later known by his stage name, Jimi) was raised by his father, as well as his mama until she passed under mysterious circumstances in an alleyway while Jimi was only 10. With a son who craved a guitar of his own, 5 kids, as well as being single, Al Hendrix carried a huge weight on his shoulders for a small period of time.
As soon as his father had the cash, Jimi got his first guitar. He never took a day for granted, practicing tons of songs from famous blues legends such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly. Hendrix was mesmerized by the unequivocal style that the typical blues artist portrayed, giving their all with each note and lyric.
Not only that, but he treasured the elaborate effort songwriters put into their work, creating a mysticism to lyrical composition while remaining faithful to the life and luster the songs were meant to offer.
Once he was old enough, Hendrix signed up for the military to get it all out of the way. War was up and coming, and Jimi thought it would be right to get in before anything major started. 1959 marked the year he was started as a paratrooper for the U.S. Army, all the way up to 1961 when he was discharged – right before the U.S. contributed to the Vietnam War.
Once Hendrix came home, he felt it was time to get his musical career on the road, and he did it with style and charisma. While in dingy clubs, he learned awesome tricks like playing guitar with his teeth and behind his back.
Jimi played as a backup guitarist for legends such as Tina Turner, B.B. King, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke. It wasn’t until one night in 1966 that Jimi would find himself officially starting his legendary walk through musical history.
When Jimi Got Discovered
While in New York, Linda Keith – girlfriend of Keith Richards at the time – noticed Jimi playing with Little Richard at The Cheetah, and felt it was an absolute crime to let him go unnoticed after they struck up a conversation after the show.
With quiet persistence, Linda talks to Chas Chandler, soon-to-be-former bass player of The Animals, into managing Jimi for his next career move. Chas Chandler was looking to manage musical talent anyways, so after watching Jimi perform in a nightclub during 1966, it was like seeing his dream unfold.
Immediately, Chas starts the search to set up his new client’s team, looking for a bass player and a drummer – Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell becoming their best fit.
Shortly after, the band went on stage all over the U.K., impressing even the most respectable figures such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In a year or so, the band would ride this success over to the U.S., starting at one of the most sensational festivals of their time in California – the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967.
Blowing The World Away
As the world learned after a short amount of time, Jimi wrote stories with every song. He did write some catchy tunes to simply get you on your feet, such as “Foxy Lady,” but he wrote songs that told not only a tale, but also a philosophical standpoint – almost like a rock and roll opera house found only in the imagination.
On stage, Jimi was a riot over in the U.S., making his first appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Here, he set fire to his guitar as a celebration of his success and of life, in turn, signifying him as one of the most artistic performers the world ever saw cross stage during the late 60’s.
While on stage, Jimi played with a wild energy that couldn’t be matched – chomping at guitar strings with his teeth while perfect riffs streamed out of the amp, flipping the guitar behind his back, as well as grinding it between his legs.
All the while, every style created phenomenal notes that otherwise performed by unseasoned artists would result in mediocre, screeching notes with no consistency. Hendrix, Mitchell, and Redding created a new standard for rock and roll within a handful of months, becoming one of the most successful rock and roll artists of their time.
Band of Gypsys
As time went on, the band rose to the greatest heights of success. In 1969, though, Noel was starting to get sick of how Jimi was turning much more condescending and cold towards him and Mitch.
Jimi continued playing with Mitch and another bassist named Billy Cox, who Jimi met back in the army under the name “Cry of Love,” as well as “The New Jimi Hendrix Experience.” They played Woodstock, where Jimi played an intricate version of the Star-Spangled Banner that blew everyone away, which is still viewed by many musicians to this day on YouTube.
The New Experience didn’t last long, as Jimi was ready to move in a new direction with new perspectives and sound. Not much later, Jimi formed another group known as Band of Gypsys, who truly defined a new chapter in Jimi’s musical career.
The band recorded live performances at Fillmore East in January 1970, holding special songs such as “Machine Gun,” “Who Knows,” and “Message of Love.” There were only six tracks on the album, though it was a legendary set of recordings that accentuated every sound with perfect precision.
Band of Gypsys set out to play gorgeous, controversial pieces that were about war, apologetic pieces for his old bands breaking up, and life’s hardships in general. With Jimi’s classic blues sound becoming crisp, clean, as well as periodically wild as Hendrix loves to play, Band of Gypsys was the last album he created under a band name; he wrote “The Cry of Love” shortly after, which was his only solo album.
Is Electric Ladyland the Best Album?
While every album Jimi Hendrix has had the pleasure of his genius composition, “Electric Ladyland” had Mitch & Noel’s creative style to back up Jimi’s new vision of musical presentation. While “Are You Experienced?” and “Axis: Bold As Love” shows the strength and versatility provided in each note and lyrical implementation that the trio can explicate with outstanding blues-rock, psychedelic rhythm, “Electric Ladyland” was a new beast.
Filled with pure science-fiction based melodies such as “All Along the Watchtower” and “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” Hendrix created an acid-like experience with a plethora of sound effects, bells, and symbols. The band also combines their passion for hard-rock mixed with electric rhythm on other tracks such as “Voodoo Chile,” “Crosstown Traffic,” and “House Burning Down.”
High-pitch squealing of the bottleneck scratches between Mitch’s consistent drumming and Noel’s jagged bass line, Jimi wobbles between notes only to jump back into a concise, structural jam to create a sense of frequent tension, excitement, change, and vulnerability in the listener. The anticipation built up by synthesized reverb on Jimi’s voice and guitar on tracks such as “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and “Gypsy Eyes” is quietly tamed as Noel and Mitch mimic the quality of the song’s essence with tantric energy.
In addition, “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) is their own unique soul jam, offering subtle soft jazz and rock notes throughout the quiet tune. The lyrical composition emphases critical stages in the development of struggling musician, psychedelic dreams of medieval scenes, and heartbreak. Not only that, but the songs span between two and thirteen minutes, offering solo after solo between Mitch’s highly aggressive drumming.
The Experience broke up shortly after the making of this album due to a pretentious attitude falling over Jimi in Noel’s eyes. Nonetheless, the three musicians worked with great cohesion, giving each and every ounce of creative energy and exerting it to great lengths.
Best Jimi Hendrix Songs Ever Released
Let’s kick off this list with the song Castles Made of Sand.
The experience gained through this song’s melancholy truth of both human nature and the normality of American life is almost breathtaking, especially during this time period. Jimi skits the entire piece, almost simulating a fast rap-like quality as he carries each verse with collectiveness and speed.
A song about fragile situations such as getting the door slammed in one’s drunken face show great emotional stress, followed by the overwhelming calm of Jimi and the band drenching your ears in soothing jazz guitar and drums. Jimi strums each string as with the grace and delicate nature of his voice. This was a breathtaking rendition of his perception of human life and interaction, one that no other band seemed to encapsulate with such smooth texture of notes, rhythm, and frequency.
This funky rendition of Minnie Riperton’s song, keeping all the mystical qualities of the original version such as the subtle melody waving back and forth, as Hendrix mimics the quality of the angels’ singing in the background with a legendary riff. Jimi adds his own twist by playing a groovy R&B/soul twang on his notes with genuine rhythm, interlaced with sitar-inspired sounds to create a whole new sound: psychedelic acid-rock, with an influence of Indian-styled music.
Not to mention Mitch hitting the symbol with slow, consistent rhythm to accentuate the high-pitch guitar notes. Neil plays a quiet bass line that cloaks the drums just perfectly, creating a synonymous flow of notes that play upon one another as time progresses. “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” goes to show that this band has the ability to diversify their sound to great lengths, especially with their renditions of famous songs.
8) Little Wing
This is a gorgeous dream streaming sounds of synthesized Jimi, soft bells chiming, and funky guitar. The lyrics tell a story of drug addiction and absent mindedness, with colorful depictions of euphemisms done in a lovely light.
“Little Wing” could be a picture of Jimi’s own life, or it could be a representation of the lives all around them in the late 60’s. Almost every girl had her head in the clouds, high on some drug or another while trying to find peace of mind.
The song coats Jimi’s guitar and voice intermittently with a wavy, ocean-like quality as bells chime over and over. Sounds mimicking a gorgeous crystal glass being struck by a slim, steel wand is swept around the room as Jimi’s guitar weaves in and out, carrying heavy rock notes similar to Duane Allman’s solo work at the end of the song, coupled by Mitch’s dramatic, slow drumming and Neil’s consistent, underlying melody.
7) Machine Gun
A classic piece representing the idea of universal love, appreciate, and understanding, “Machine Gun” tells the tale of a soldier in war who hardly understands why men are fighting one another, describing them as only a couple families apart. This a great piece, as well as one showing the collective talent of the Band of Gypsys.
While the band’s premium vinyl record album is the only proof of their collaborative genius, this album sets a new standard for musical production – even for Hendrix.
Jimi wails on the guitar in high-pitch, whammy-cloaked notes waving back and forth like a lightning storm. Billy Cox plays a groovy, fast-paced rhythm that pairs well with Buddy Miles’ barbaric, quick and concise drumming.
The live quality of the track creates a raw sense of jungle-like energy. Stalking in the room like a herd of wild lions, the beat is a phenomenal match for such bone-chilling lyrics. This track couldn’t be done without the use of a three-piece band, as every single musical contribution plays an equal part in the song’s intense, evocative nature.
Starting off with long, continuous rhythmic dances of funky rock and roll sounds cloak heavy bass lines, “Voodoo Child” invokes involuntary head nodding from the start. The song is composed only a few sections of verses speaking of Jimi’s wild spirit on the road of fame, jaw-dropping solos, and major emphasis on Noel’s baseline. The reason this song is so much better than the original “Voodoo Chile” is due to the recording quality on the record.
A groovy guitar streams in one’s bedroom while Jimi screams blues-inspired, grungy solos that bounce back and forth between speakers. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was recorded with quality that waved in and out of your ears like a bee, and riffs that barked with a heavy emphasis on Noel & Jimi’s plucking.
Though this song was well thought out before Noel and Mitch came on the scene, “The Wind Cries Mary” was only recorded in 20 minutes with a handful of overdubbed guitar tracks.
In the studio, Jimi had recorded his voice with the guitar strapped to him, while several overdubs focus on the wiggling on his fingers on the frets while he plucks the rhythm guitar. It’s phenomenal quality, having several guitars and versions of the same song layered upon Mitch’s soft, quiet drumming.
Jimi sings a Camelot-like tale of heartbreak, intermingled with modern scenes of street lights and clowns. The imagery is striking, coupled with the gorgeous melody that sounds as if the wind is drifting your soul down a warm, milky river.
Howling in the night, it seems as though the wind wraps around Jimi’s ears in the form of old memories entertain his mind. For decades, this song has been a rock classic due to the timeless beauty of the structure, recording quality, and lyrical genius behind this three-minute fable.
4) Red House
Classic electric blues guitar with a high-pitch bottleneck drawl, Jimi Hendrix and the Experience tells the tale of a man who’s been gone for almost 100 days from home and his woman locks him out for good. This humorous song tells the story of a horny man’s point of view, who says that his woman’s sister will love him just the same.
In conjunction with gorgeous Muddy Waters’ like guitar, as well as giving small solos in between Mitchell’s somber, heavy rhythm as he slowly hits the drums. “Red House” is a classic number of Hendrix’s, though it didn’t release on the U.S. version of their album “Are You Experienced?” until a period of time later.
3) Hey Joe
“Hey Joe” was a groundbreaking single, hitting number 6 on the top music charts in the U.K. that developed a huge following of the band afterward – speaking of domestic abuse, cheating, and murder. A tale of a man who ran into a friend who saw he had a gun in his hand, running around the streets like a madman.
The visual images Jimi sets up in his lyrics are stunning, coupled with some slow, grungy twinge on blues guitar, a consistent bass line, and drumming that builds in tempo only when Jimi’s guitar ebbs and flows. It was interesting to hear a story told from the perception of a friend, as well as culturally enlightening to tell the world of how dark domestic violence can inevitably be.
Originally a slow blues song fused with heavy harmonica solos by Bob Dylan, The Experience created their own fashion of this smashing hit. The lyrics of this song are soaked in tension, as Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding” album is a collection of allegorical stories and metaphysical scenes from clips of time with intricate, oxymoronic language.
The song starts with symbols and scratchy guitar, simulating the trudging into a medieval town, leading to a scene where a joker and thief are having a conversation in the streets. A joker and a thief talk about escaping a town due to the injustice, and constant thieving of their food and land – only to be followed by a complete change in scenery to a royal palace, giving the visualization of wild chaos and constant supervision of the town’s visitors.
The collaboration of every band member on this cover was astounding, as they play with an old western, science-fiction, hard-rock feel. Shaking a tambourine in conjunction with guitar, fast drums, and barking bass, the sound pulsates as it retracts for Jimi’s voice to become the central focus during the three short verses in between four major solos.
As the song progresses, the band’s tempo increases, as Jimi’s voice stays the same throughout the entire time. The intensity of the song’s power is magnetic as the end draws closer, screaming higher and higher notes with each solo – especially the closing section.
1) Purple Haze
Irrefutable guitar riffs that shape-shifted rock music forever “Purple Haze” is a science-fiction rock and roll anthem based in a dream Jimi had one night – a central faction of The Experience’s album, “Are You Experienced?” Heavy, repetitive notes travel with an even consistency, unique patterns, and perfect flow as Jimi plays grungy rock music with a touch of electric blues rhythm.
Walking on the ocean floor while staring at the sky, Jimi walks through this dream while playing his emotional state with vigorous energy. Not only Jimi, but the rest of the band works in collaboration with the wild melody that he puts out so every sound is exaggerated, accentuated, and inspiring.
While Jimi’s voice echoes in from each speaker back and forth, and Noel plays a nasty baseline that barks behind Mitch’s drumming, mimicking the sound of Ginger Baker’s heavy, enthralling beats.
Fusing heavier sounds with dreamy lyrics makes for one of The Experience’s hardest songs ever released, painting a wild picture of pure fantasy while sparking unadulterated fun, creativity, and nostalgic pleasure. “Purple Haze” noticeably inspired the rhythm of hits such as Deep Purple’s “Smoke On Water,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
Hendrix had one of the biggest breakthroughs in musical history, providing a ton of sounds that the world had yet to hear. Unforgettable solos, performances, and 10-minute long anthems continue to wail through vinyl players all over the world for the same reason that many others were — Jimi had subtle intellectual advantages over the majority of musicians, and he kept himself humbled throughout his journey to the top.
The goal was to make music that was freeing and electric, bringing a new flavor to the lives of the ordinary blues rockers who needed a kick in their average dose of bottleneck slides. Jimi left an unforgettable legacy that won’t be forgotten since he quite literally set a new standard and style for guitarists for decades to come.
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