Born: November 27, 1942 | Died: September 18, 1970 Primary Instrument: Guitar, electric
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix (later changed to James Marshall) on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. Learning to play guitar as a teenager, Hendrix grew up to become a rock guitar legend. He began his career by playing in a number of bands in his youth. Hendrix later enlisted in the United States Army in 1961 and became as a paratrooper. Even as a soldier, Hendrix found time for music, creating a band named The King Casuals. He served in the army until 1965 when he was discharged because of an injury.
After leaving the military, Hendrix pursued his music, working as a session musician and playing backup for such performers as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, and the Isley Brothers. He also formed a group of his own called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, which played gigs around New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. In mid-1966, Hendrix met Chas Chandler, a former member of the Animals, a successful rock group, who became his manager. Chandler convinced Hendrix to go to London where he joined forces with musicians Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to create The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Released in 1967, the band's first single, “Hey Joe,” was an instant smash in Britain, and soon followed by such other hits as “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cried Mary.” On tour in Europe to support his first album, Are You Experienced?, Hendrix delighted audiences with his outrageous guitar-playing skills and his innovative, experimental sound. He won over American music fans with his stunning performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967, which ended with Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire. Quickly becoming a rock music superstar, Hendrix scored again with his second album, Axis: Bold as Love (1968). His final album as part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland (1968) was released and featured the hit “All Along the Watchtower,” which was written by Bob Dylan. The band continued to tour until it split up in 1969.
That same year, Hendrix performed at another legendary musical event, the Woodstock Festival. His rock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” amazed the crowds and demonstrated his considerable talents as a musician. He was also an accomplished songwriter and musical experimenter. Hendrix even had his own recording studio in which he could work with different performers and try out new songs and sounds.
Hendrix tried his luck with another group, forming Band of Gypsys in late 1969 with his army buddy Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. The band never really took off, and Hendrix became working on new album tentatively named First Rays of the New Rising Sun, with Cox and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Unfortunately Hendrix did not live to complete the project.
Hendrix died on September 18, 1970, from drug-related complications. While this talented recording artist was only 27 at the time of his passing, Hendrix left his mark on the world of rock music and remains popular to this day.