He was the first to make love to his guitar then light it on fire. This wild man was Jimi Hendrix, and in his short career he became the prodigy of blues and rock. Playing his guitar from the back of his head and also using his teeth, he was able to lure his audiences in the sensation of his musical talent. His flamboyant style was quite the attraction. His signature look will forever be remembered. With a peacock feather sticking out of his hat, sunshine colorful shirts, headband and unmanageable hair, he was a true reflection of his music: unique and outstanding.
The documentary, “Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin,” reveals the high peaks of Hendrix’s short, yet memorable career. His music was anything but ordinary as he rose to stardom. He was proclaimed as the number one guitar player in the world, yet he was always able to remain humble. Hendrix was showcased on the talk show, the “Dick Cavett Show” on July 7, 1969.
After Cavett complimented Hendrix on being pronounced one of the best guitarists in the world, Hendrix looked down with a look of bashfulness and modesty. Humorously Hendrix said, “How about one of the best sitting in this chair.”
This genius guitarist challenged music in a way no one had ever done before in his era. The epitome example of this is his famous controversial piece of the National Anthem rendition he presented at Woodstock in 1969. His innovative sound of the song symbolized a parallel reflection of what America was becoming.
The beginning notes of the song were almost symmetrical to the original, then he changed the pace, giving the piece a more dangerous and aggressive feel. The clashing sounds of his guitar spoke volumes of the unnecessary turmoil caused by the hate exposed in America. In effect, it was causing a division amongst the country. The Hendrix version of the National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” was raw and enriching.
“[It was such a] resonate turn to what our lives had been in that decade,” said festival promoter Michael Lang. “It brought all those images to mind about what America was about and what we were doing in these wars and the civil rights movements and all these struggles that were going on.”
Hendrix on stage revealed such a risky character with his flashy clothes, innovative music and indescribable stage presence. However, this “world greatest guitarist” had a much simpler personality offstage. According to the documentary, his close friends and family describe him as unbearably shy, conservative and humble aside from his many chasing fans. They say he was a simple man who needed little. All he ever went after was his passion for music.
Hendrix was born with the musical gift and he knew it. Without knowing how to read music notes, he played his guitar by ear. He looked up to Chuck Berry and raved over his music, fashion, hair and rhythm. Early on he aimed to be a force of power in the music industry. Hendrix’s cousin, Bob Hendrix, said he still remembers Jimi telling his dad, “You know dad, I’m going to make you proud of me one day and I’m going to be very famous, I’m gonna make it.” There is no doubt that Hendrix was destined for his career.
It didn’t take long until he came in contact with the bass player Billy Cox during his service in the military at the age of 17. Jumping from a 34-foot tower, on his 25th jump he broke his ankle where he got an honorable leave with a medical discharge. So he toured mainly as a background musician on stage all over the United States and Canada.
Finally, through word of mouth, he made his first debut and was recognized in the first major pop festival, Monterey Pop, where he was able to blow minds with his impressive performance that made everyone groove to his beat.
A real musician is never satisfied with their own craft because of their obsession to be better. All the greats come with this mentality and Jimi Hendrix was no different. With hit albums such as, “Are You Experienced,” “Axis Bold As Love” and “Electric Ladyland,” people quickly fell in love with his music. Before he died at the age of only 27 from an overdose of sleeping pills, he had a premonition that he would die before the age of 30. He accepted his early death, however he said he was sorry more than anything because he still had so much music left in him. In celebration of the debut of the documentary, a new album, “Miami Pop Festival,” was released and is now available for purchase.
His music continues to thrive and his message lives on. It’s been 43 years since he was able to hit the stage, but this wild thing still makes our hearts sing.