Today marks what would have been the 70th birthday of Jimi Hendrix, the pioneering guitar player who singlehandedly changed every conceivable facet, approach, and style that existed before he got his hands on the instrument, and once he did, he foraged a universe in which millions traveled to, in which, led by Hendrix, one could attempt to attack the guitar as he did with a frighteningly bold and original tackling to break every single convention that stood firmly lodged in place before him and inventing new ones for those to follow for now and forever.
The electric guitar was mainly a still new instrument by the time Jimi Hendrix first picked it up and discovered what it could do and there were still musical rules and regulations being invented as it went along. Hendrix took those rules and regulations and put them through a metaphorical sifter, found the diamonds in the rubble, and then blues fried them on a skillet. The result is (still) some of the most electrified and stunningly dazzling rock and roll ever put to tape.
Hendrix’s sound and style manifested an in perpetuity posterity that is still the benchmark and firmly entrenched bar in which one must follow in order to even attempt the musical energy Hendrix radiated. With his flailing look – his wildly camped up but never pretentious color palette of clothing and fashion, a panache that reached untold heights – Jimi Hendrix was in every way, by the first look at the man and listen of him, unforgettable. His physicality matched his playing, and he thrilled and repelled, excited and miffed, turned on and turned off audiences from coast to coast and beyond.
Although the public reaction originally was mixed as mentioned above, since his untimely passing at the embryonic age of only 27 in September 1970, there has been a universal acclaim globally and collectively for Hendrix’s talents and where they stand in the annals and importance of music history. For the most part, when it comes to mentioning the greatest guitar players of all time, lists are usually compiled in the manner of accepting that Hendrix is number one, in a class by himself, as if he has that number one slot locked in, which in essence he does, and then putting the rest of the names in the list in. Those on the list would agree as well of the ranking, at least when it came to Jimi Hendrix being first.
Hendrix is still held in high regard and many of his songs – “Voodoo Child,” “Purple Haze,” “Message To Love,” “Third Stone From The Sun,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” “Crosstown Traffic,” “I Don’t Live Today,” and many more – and many of his covers, “All Along The Watchtower,” “Wild Thing,” “Hound Dog,” and even The Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” stand as personal checkpoints for many musicians, who feel a sense of worth and accomplishment when they can play a Hendrix solo, albeit shaky, but can play it, or a riff, or even a few bending notes from the many Hendrix tracks in which he shoots through the sky musically, into trajectories too intense for mere mortal musicians. Hendrix had and still has one hundred percent and crystal clear through stacks and stacks of Marshall amps that presence that cuts like a machete through the standard tenets of rock and roll, through all genres; he liked to dabble in blues, psychedelia, out there sonic tonic ambience that knew no bounds whatsoever.
If Hendrix can be summed up in one word, it would be the word “reaching.” He never stopped doing that. He was set to record with on jazz trumpeter extraordinaire Miles Davis before he died back in 1970, and one can only imagine, dream, and deliciously speculate what that union would have created. We will never know of course, but what remains is a musicography which stretches and transcends the normal boundaries of rock and roll, a perfectly baked oeuvre of sounds which are at one parts original, two parts unusual, three parts stretching and soaring and all parts just out of this world amazing.
So let today be a day in which Hendrix screams and blares his sonic messages out of the speakers; let the groovy, cry for peace and love, intense and wildly ear shattering and soul massaging songs of Jimi Hendrix seize the day, like they have been ever since he plugged in and tuned in and turned on. Here’s to remembering the birthday of Jimi Hendrix, master musical talisman of sorts, master at his craft, cultural and innovative icon of all time. Have you ever been experienced? Jimi Hendrix makes sure you have.