This is not only my first article, but was submitted in my Honors History Class as the term reserach paper. The article focus's mostly upon his childhood, and the beginings of his career. The article is as accurate as possible, however there are more theorys on some of the information contained with in, notably on his first guitar, and his death. There are multiple suggestions on how these events took place, I took the most common theorys. Enjoy.
When the power of love overcomes the love of power... the world will know peace"
Many people consider Jimi Hendrix to be a notable guitarist, not only for his memorable melodies, and wild stage antics but the powerful and diverse effect he has had on almost every guitarist's life. His influence has started a cycle the inevitably reaches every single one of us in one way, shape or form. People also said that all Jimi did was lead a life of sex, drugs, and Rock N' Roll, now although the last point is unarguably true, Jimi did not lead such a fully proclaimed sex or drug life as often told by many today.
Johnny Allen Hendrix, Jimi's birthright name, was born on November 27, 1942. His mother, Lucille gave birth to young Johnny in King County Hospital, located in Seattle, Washington. Johnny's father, Al Hendrix, had left for war months before his birth, so he was left to be raised by his mother, with no father figure for the first 4 years of his life.
When Johnny's father returned home from his service in the military, one of the first things he did was change Johnny's name to James Marshall Hendrix. John's father worried the name has been chosen by his wife after an old boyfriend with the name of John. Is was assumed the name James was chosen after Johnny's father and a defined answer has yet to be decided upon Marshall by the general public.
James Hendrix was an only child until 1948, when his mother Lucille gave birth to James' Brother Leon Hendrix. Leons birth was followed by three other siblings in sub sequential years, Joseph Allen Hendrix, Kathy Ira Hendrix, and Pamela Hendrix, all three were born with birth defects, and all three would eventually be turned over to become wards of the state as the Hendrix family could not support them or the medical bills they brought with them.
Lucille and Al finally divorced from all the stress in there marriage, they fought frequently, Jimi's emotions forcing him frequently into his bedroom to run away from all of the anger. His bedroom also happened to be a closet, the family was quite poor and space in there apartment was limited.
It is often said that was Jimi's inspiration for many of his songs was his early departed mother. She passed away roughly a year after she and Al were divorced due to a ruptured spleen. Jimi respected his mother highly, and many of his more popular songs used her as the source of inspiration.
Al become the sole caretaker of James, and Leon, and Joe just a few months before Lucille's death, however he was unable to perform such a duty by himself, and this resulted in Leon being placed into foster care by choice, and Joe being placed into foster care due to Al being unable to pay the medical bills necessary for the various operations Joe needed.
Jimi's 8th grade year was an interesting one. His father urged him to try out for junior football, which he did. Unfortunately for Jimi he was no athlete, and was really only accepted onto the team due to the circumstances he lived in. Jimi also was not exactly the most academically suited student in the class. He was not unintelligent; he just was smart in other things, that weren't labeled upon his report card.
It was between Jimi's 8th grade and 9th grade year when he acquired his first guitar. This guitar was of the acoustic variety, and was in shambles. It had one string, and yet Jimi treasured this guitar. In fact he could make that one string talk more than some of the other boys with instruments could do with all 6 of their strings.
An interesting fact is that in one of his years during his schooling he received a single F. This F ironically was in his music class, and yet Jimi is now known for being a guitar virtuoso in his own right. I would assume this was due to the poor attendance record he most likely had in this class.
Jimi was forced to repeat his 9th grade due to poor standardized test scores; however this year also held another surprise for Jimi. After plenty of pleading with his father, Jimi no longer had to attempt to assemble his radio to his acoustic guitar to try and make himself a homemade acoustic guitar. His father finally purchased Jimi an Electric guitar, and this guitar was Jimi's pride and joy for years.
Jimi would enjoy Jam Sessions with anyone he could meet up with. He would play with many people, some which were many years older then he was, however Jimi used their knowledge in order to improve his playing, and his attention to detail did pay off in the long run.
One of Jimi's childhood girlfriends could be quoted telling of Jimi's obsessions with the guitar even at such a young age. She said he had no case for the guitars, and so he either carried his prized possession with him everywhere he went, or else he would place in a large bag to help protect it for a little while from minor infractions, and possible rain.
Jimi's very first gig was in the basement of the Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a Seattle synagogue. He was playing with a group that was older then him, although they all were still teenagers. He began playing excitedly and wild. The group apparently did not find this entertaining, and Jimi was kicked out of the band, never to perform an official gig with them again.
Jimi later joined a group called the Velvetones. The gigs for this group did not pay any money, and the facility where they played was the best kept; however it was a chance for Jimi and the band to experiment with his wild antics.
Jimi never finished high school. He was kicked out after his sophomore year. His principal is quoted saying that it wasn't a matter of a few grades and classes, but rather due to his very poor attendance it would be impossible to make all of the classes up so that he could graduate. Jimi later on in life would rebuke this story saying that he was actually in study hall everyday, trying to succeed, and that he was forced to leave because someone saw him holding hands with his white girlfriend, this however was perfectly fine for the times, and Jimi's friends would not even support the idea of Jimi in study hall.
Now Hendrix obviously was not perfect. This belief is later reinforced by the fact that he attempted to steal a car at one point of his life. However, he did not go to jail. He was allowed to enlist in the army rather than serve a two year sentence. He joined a division of Paratroopers In 1961. He was assigned to the 101st Air Division, at Fort Campbell.
Hendrix's letters home said he was exceptionally proud of his service in the army; however his army records tended to say otherwise. His commanding officers said he was lazy, inattentive, couldn't focus on even the most basic of tasks, and would be constantly thinking of his guitar. He would also be caught sleeping by day and missing at the midnight bed checks.
After a year of service, in 1962, Hendrix was recommended for an end of service. There are many claims as to why, according to the military records he had behavioral problems, and was later caught masturbating in a public place. However Hendrix later claimed he left due to an injury to his ankle in a parachute jump. It was also said that he may have faked being gay in order to be released from his service. Jimi was still a devote anti-communist, and he did not leave the war for protest reasons if he left on his own accord, but rather so he could focus solely upon the guitar.
While in service Hendrix met a man by the name of Billy Cox. These two musicians formed a tight bond, and would gig in small clubs together quite frequently, calling themselves and touring with the name The Kasuals. Billy Cox would play an important part in his later career.
After Billy Cox and Jimi left Fort Campbell, they both moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, where they began gigging under the name of The King Kasuals. This was not the most elaborate gig setting for Jimi; it was focused mostly upon the smaller venues, where pay was quite low, and popularity for the artist not as easy to come by as other venues. Racism and poverty struck quite heavily upon Jimi at this point.
Jimi enjoyed his wild antics with the guitar, and while the crowds enjoyed observing Hendrix perform, the record companies and studio session attendants did not. Hendrix was thrown out of his first studio recording session due to this reason. January 1964, was when his career began to look up in a more positive manner. This was the year Hendrix moved to New York. Upon arrival he quickly found his self a dating companion by the name of Lithofayne Faye Pridgeon. He also found himself two more musicians to perform with, who went by the names of Albert and Arthur Allen. Hendrix also won first place in the Apollo Theatre Amateur Contest. The New York scene was difficult to break into, although this victory was heavily appreciated by Jimi.
After two months Hendrix began touring with The Isley Brothers. It was with this group that he was able to perform his first successful studio session. He did not stay for long however, and switched gears to tour with Gorgeous George Ordell, a backup for Little Richard, and he did enjoy serving the capacity with Little Richard, however he would often argue over things such as his wild stage antics, and his wardrobe. Jimi would later tour with Ira and Tina Turner, before returning back to The Upsetters, Little Richards backing band, only to be fire soon after for missing the Tour Bus from Washington D.C.
Hendrix continued to switch around to various bands quite frequently, and he would attend three more after The Upsetters before the idea of forming his own band came to mind. He began to think on the prospect, however in order to be successful he realized he would have to move to Greenwich Village, an area more appreciate of black artists then his current residence.
Hendrix called this first band under his control by the name of Jimi James and the Blue Flames. They were able to grab fame locally rather quickly, and also were given the opportunity of gigging in one building Caf Wha?, weekly. During this time a friend of Jimi's was able to get his band placed to be the opener for a tour of The Sun Downers, and The Monkies, who were traveling nationally at that time. Jimi was also introduced to the Wah Pedal by Frank Zappa, a device he would learn to use masterfully and intergrate into his sound.
1965 was when Hendrix, you could say was finnaly discovered, however he was turned down the opportunity by many artists and produces, such as the band The Rolling Stones, and their producer. However thanks to the girlfriend of one of the members of the band, Linda Kieth, who was dating Kieth Richards from The Rolling Stones, Hendrix was recommended to Chas Chandler, the retired bassist from The Animals. Chas Chandler upon seeing Hendrix play, he was so excited he spilt his drink upon himself, and began to immediately sign Hendrix, and get him a new band to play with. This band become known as The Jimi Hendrix Experience and this is the group in which many of Jimi's hits took shape.
During Hendrix's tour of Europe, not only did he gain the respect of such guitarists and bands such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Beatles and The Who, but this was the time period where many of his popular songs were released. Songs such as Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, Purple Haze, and Stone Free.
It was during this tour in Europe where the band's first album Are You Experienced? was released. On March 31, 1967 Jimi Hendrix performed what was known to be a radical stunt of showmanship, and lit his guitar on fire, and antic the crowd enjoyed immensely.
In fact during this time Jimi Hendrix was quite the showman, that upon the last act of his tour, the hosting venue asked him to turn it down, as Hendrix had been having problems with things such as breaking his equipment and Amps during his performances. Also, the Beatles Album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released two days before this performance, and with two Beattles members in Attendance, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, along with Guitar Virtosos Eric Clapton, Hendrix performed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, after only minutes of preperation before the gig.
With the release of Hendrix's album Axis: Bold As Love and the album Electric Lady Land, and the earlier conclusion of The Jimi Hendrix Experience's European Tour, Jimi had finnaly hit it big upon the United States Radio Air Waves.
The last concert The Jimi Hendrix Experience took place on June 29, 1969 at Barry Fey's Denver Pop Festival. This was a three-day event held at Denver's Mile High Stadium. This event was marked by rioting and tear gas. The three bandmates were smuggled out of the venue in the back of a rental truck which was crushed by a mob of fans. The next day, Noel Redding announced that he had quit the Experience, and thus was the end of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Hendrix also expereinced two legal crisis at this time. The first was an agreement via contract that Hendrix had made to Ed Chaplin prior to Hendrix becoming a succesful touring musician. The other legal battle involved Hendrix being arrest for possesion of Heroine, and Hashish, the first documented case of his drug useage, although Hendrix claimed these items were slipped into his lugage.
One of Hendrix's defining moments was during Woodstock. This concert hosted many artists, however Hendrix and the new band he toured with Gypsy Sun and the Rainbows were the headliners. They received the top spot in the performance order, and also had the highest budget to work with. Although the concert peaked at 500,000 people, Hendrix performed for roughly 180,000 due to tehcnical difficulites and other situations arrising, he had to be moved from Sunday night to Monday morning, and by then most of the crowd had left. Those that stayed however, were able to witness a solo improvisation of the Star Spangled Banner, a feat Hendrix is still remembered for today.
In September 1969 it is said Hendrix was kidnapped shortly by two thugs in New York. Hendrix's manager had to come and negotiate the Rock stars release. Some speculate that his manager put the thugs up to it, to show Hendrix who's boss, as this took place during a small feud between the two indivduals. This also supports the theory that Jimi did not die of a voluntary drug overdose, but rather by hitmen sent to force him to injest the pills.
Hendrix continued touring and continued to have succseful tours with all the new bands and artists he toured with, and thus his death during his tour was quite tragic. Hendrix had spent most of the evening celebrating with his German girlfriend Monika Dannemanne. However by this time in life Hendrix although succseful was very succseful, and so under the influence of the wine he had taken, was unable to judge the potency of the sleeping pills he possesed, and swallowed nine of the pills, and went to rest upon his bed. He was discovered the next day, having drowned in his own vomit, unable to wake up due to the strength of the multiple pills. A poem was found in his room, that suggested the idea of suicide. It is also rumored that some men were hired either by Jimi's manager, or by the government to eliminate Hendrix, while making it seem like a suicide, however the most reputable explanation is that Hendrix being under the influence of the wine, misjudged the strength of pills.
Hendrix did live somewhat of a tragic childhood, which his sucsess later in life helped make up for, however his drug useage was very short. His experience with Marijuana and LSD's were not confirmed until very late in his career, to late to support the theory that he was a frequent user of drugs.
Although Hendrix has past from this world, his memory lives on in the hearts and souls of many. So many artists have taken inspiration from this man, or have taken influence from an artist who's influence was Hendrix, that he has had an ever spirling influence upon everyone.