This is the text of my tribute to Jimi Hendrix from tonight's Racin' and Rockin' show. Love to all, JB
This is my personal tribute to the greatest electric guitarist of all time,
the incomparable Jimi Hendrix. Rather than open Wikipedia or Rolling Stone
or any of the websites that have exhaustively detailed Jimi's life
and accomplishments and read it to you, I have decided to editorialize my commentary
and speak from the heart, because that is where Jimi Hendrix lives within me.
His story is as unique and solitary as anything that ever happened in the history of
rock 'n roll. There was only one Jimi Hendrix. There will never be another. I have
studied several life stories of rags-to-riches rock 'n roll stars, but this story is about
an introverted, completely disadvantaged boy with virtually nothing
who grew up to become a legend beyond anyone's wildest dreams, only to die
in the bloom of his youth, leaving behind a window to the most extraordinay
music of his soul that again and again scaled unimaginable heights of
sonic ecstasy. And he did a lot of it playing with his teeth.
Tomorrow is the 42nd anniversary of the day of Jimi Hendrix's earth death.
He would be almost 70 years old now if his body had survived the life he occupied for the
last 3 years of his physical existence on this planet with us. To say that he went out
undefeated and untied in his field would be about as accurate as possible.
You could ask anyone who was around when Hendrix was playing and they'd all
agree and then some. The astounding impact that he had when he exploded on the
scene in 1967 was at that time indescribable but the group of rock stars who were
witnessing what he did were to a man, knocked over backwards by the sheer
brilliance of his playing combined with showmanship beyond anything that anyone
had ever dreamed of up to that point. I'll go back to this after I lay a little groundwork
of Jimi's life, because I feel I must apply an outline here for timeline purposes.
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born in November of 1942 to a young, unstable girl who
had no idea of how to take care of a child and a father who was away in the armed forces
In World War II. He spent a lot of his childhood with his grandmother, who had been
a vaudeville dancer on the Dixie circuit in her youth. His father renamed him James
Marshall Hendrix after his brother died and the nickname Jimmy stayed with him.
With a broken family life, living in abject poverty and being shuffled from one home setting
to another, he was actually the privileged one of his six siblings, whose real
parentage was in question and their frequent absences for all intents and purposes
made Jimmy an only child. He grew up shy, withdrawn and prone to fantasy and
daydreaming, but he did memorize all of his grandmother's records, which were
blues recordings from many years past.
He was not an outstanding student in school but he did show a natural intelligence
that his teachers took notice of and they recommended music as a career path.
He was 12 when he got his first guitar and he never put it down. By the time he was
15 his dad got him his first electric guitar, which to me is an amazing fact in this
man's life. He had only been playing electric for less than 8 years when he hit the
big-time, and the first few years of that, he was playing without an amp. Go figure.
A short stint in the Army paratrooper division, a broken ankle and the true fact
that Jimmy Hendrix was not intended for anything in life except one thing...playing
guitar....ended well with his honorable discharge from the service in 1962.
His playing evolved quickly and he rose up from the ranks of local and regional
bands to join Little Richard and then the Isley Brothers before he had
an awakening; an epiphany, and he decided to move to New York in 1965.
He had become fascinated with the lyrical poetry of Bob Dylan and he was
also hugely impressed by the power and energy of the white rock 'n roll bands,
as well as thoroughly schooled in the realm of soul and blues music.
The cornerstone of his future had been laid by this time.
He had developed and refined a completely realized alter-ego from
his previous gigs and the two Jimi Hendrixes that existed by this time
had completely separated from each other. The onstage showman who
frightened his audiences with roaring power, amazed them with musical
mastery, plus the visual image of the mix of the wild Afro and Cherokee guy
wearing a psychedelic bandleader suit, dancing on his effect pedals. setting
his guitar on fire and conjuring unheard-of sounds out of his row of amps,
etc, etc, and the offstage, private, sensitive, soft-spoken and articulate poet
whose troubled mind tormented his life. His struggle to find emotional
and psychological freedom in life, combined with his supremely gifted musical
talent as a tool to release this inner storm created a once-in-a-lifetime...Experience.
By the time Chas Chandler dropped in to the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village to
see this kid play on the recommendation of a friend, Jimmy James and the Blue
Flames were established locally as a pretty hot act but they were living hand-to-
mouth, playing dives for chump change and just hanging by a thread to society's
lower East side. Chas saw potential in this kid. He made him an offer to move to
England and put the pieces together of a band like no other. A vision that Chandler
had in his mind from seeing what Jimmy could do and he made him an offer he
couldn't refuse....dare to be great. Take it beyond the next level. Create a new
dimension. All these seemingly pie-in-the-sky ideals made sense to Jimmy
Hendrix. He went to England in 1966 and did what Chandler said. Chandler
changed the spelling of Jimmy's name to Jimi. He held auditions for his band and
settled on John "Mitch" Mitchell, and guitarist Noel Redding as his band, which
he aptly named the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The next three years have been thoroughly documented day-by-day and detailed
from every perspective possible, but in summary I can say that he didn't have much
down time until the end. Drugs, endless touring, intense recording, jamming with many
of his contemporaries and a fringe lifestyle took their toll and he often found
himself inexplicably homeless and penniless at the height of his fame, just as he'd
been when he started out. This kind of predicament was almost expected to happen.
This was before rock 'n roll started getting up at 5 AM and went jogging, had accounting
firms and teams of lawyers directing their finances and had nutritionists and fitness
gurus controlling their diets and exercize regimens. In the late 60s, rock stars like
Hendrix were living on the razor's edge between life and death. It would be a long
time before that situation would change, and it never really completely did change.
There were notable peaks. The Monterrey Pop Festival gig. Woodstock. The Fillmore
East New Year's Eve gig. His 5 albums: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As
Love, Electric Ladyland (on which he played almost all of the bass parts since Noel had
left the band by then), Band of Gypsys, The Cry Of Love, and Rainbow Bridge are the
real and lasting documents of his career.
All of the main musicians from his bands that played on these records and toured and
performed with him, and many of his mentors have died except for Billy Cox, his
bass player with the Band of Gypsys. Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, Chas Chandler,
Buddy Miles, Jesse Ed Davis, Michael Jefferies, all gone. Billy Cox has continued
to promote Hendrix's legacy, philosophy and style with his continued career. Larry
Lee, Jimi's rhythym guitarist at Woodstock, as well as Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez
from the same band, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, are still around. Eddie Kramer,
the engineer on Jimi's official Capitol Records recording projects, is still kicking.
I believe his finest moment was at Woodstock in August of 1969. His impomptu
version of the Star-Spangled Banner has stood the test of time and was a truly
inspired anthem that united a nation for decades to come. In my world, that event
in his life stands as a testament to Jimi Hendrix's genius and the depth, passion and
coviction that he posessed. It is the song I picked as Jimi's greatest.
His array of effects were not trickery, they were all analog devices that anybody else
could buy at a music store. He had a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz-Face pedal, an
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, which is a power-booster and distortion pedal, a
Uni-Vibe reverb and vibrato pedal, a Vox Cry-Baby Wah-Wah pedal, and they were
all battery-powered. His amp of choice was a Marshall 100-watt stack with 4 12-
inch Celestion speakers. Everything was turned up all the way. He controlled the
volume with his guitar's volume knob. The studio effects that were applied to his
music were phase-shifting, delay and echo, voice-doubling and octave-splitting.
He didn't use any of those effects in live performance, though. This was before digital
technology, and they tuned by ear back then.
Completely self-taught, he was a 100% left-handed guitarist. His deal was a pefect
mirror-image of a right-handed player. Even the guitar was flipped over instead
of him using a left-handed player's guitar. Our buddy Jim Sanders plays that way as
well, but the upside-down Stratocaster was an iconic image that is instantly
identified with the Hendrix style. Others have tried to copy him and duplicate what he
did, but hey. Sorry, guys. You're good, but you, sir, are no Jimi Hendrix.
I've seen them try. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Robin Trower, Frank Marino,
Randy Hansen, even to some extent, Randy California, who had the right to do it
since he was renamed Randy California by Hendrix when he played in Jimmy's band
in Greenwich Village before the Experience came to be. But for as great as these
guys could play, and the sincerity and depth of their determination to keep Hendrix's
music alive, and for all the respect I have for them, no matter how great of an example
of your playing ability you are making, Jimi Hendrix simply cannot be redone and have
it sound like the original. Eric Clapton's version of "Little Wing" and Stevie Ray's "Voodoo
Chile" are indeed great, but I'd pick one original Hendrix song over everything that has
been done to cover his work combined.
Hendrix happens. When he shows up in you. You don't calculate
and predetermine what time that will be and what you're going to play.
HE does it. It's happened to me before. Here is the best way I can describe it.
You're playing, you reach a certain point, and there he is. A door
opens and he walks in and takes over. It's fleeting, but it's the most awesome
feeling a guitarist could ever have.
I have never attempted to sound, imitate or "be" like Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix is a spirit now and he manifests himself within the soul of the artist.
He exists in the realm of pure inspiration. That is where you'll find him.
It's the only way he can live until his soul and his body will be unified in
eternity as a natural existential element of passage. That didn't happen
when his body died. Since then he has wandered the earth restlessly, without
peace and his journey will continue until all his karma evens out. As for me,
his brief presence was grace from God. I have no doubt that not all of us
have had that happen but that is my belief and that is what I'm saying tonight.
To Jimi, to all of us, and to the Lord, I am grateful for this time to speak to you tonight.
May God bless Jimi Hendrix and all he did for us. Let the good times roll.
Last edited by WildcatOne
on Tue Sep 18, 2012 1:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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