Experiencing Jimi Hendrix!
Any guesses who’s the pop culture legend who gave a new vocabulary to guitar? Okay, I drop a hint; he was recently named as the greatest guitar player in the history by Rolling Stones magazine. Yeah, that’s right, it’s Jimi Hendrix!
Isn’t it interesting that when most of his contemporaries are fossilised, Jimi Hendrix – the man and his music is still relevant in today’s time, that too when the guy was entirely self-taught and unable to read music!
Jimi embraced music not only to get away from the demons of a troubled past but also to defy the regimented life of army. Inspired by the likes of BB Kings, Elmore James, Buddy Holly, Muddy Waters and Eddie Cochran, he went ahead and forged new sounds. Talking about the 60s and its music, I must say that his sound was very much unlike the music of Elvis Presley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In Jimi’s case, guitar was not used purely as a rhythm accompaniment but his innovative funk-blues laden tracks, often filled by screeching solos were distinctively new in the contemporary scene.
Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello is absolutely right when he says, “Jimi Hendrix exploded our idea of what rock music could be: He manipulated the guitar, the whammy bar, the studio and the stage. On songs like ‘Machine Gun’ or ‘Voodoo Chile,’ his instrument is like a divining rod of the turbulent Sixties – you can hear the riots in the streets and napalm bombs dropping in his ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’”
“His playing was effortless. There’s not one minute of his recorded career that feels like he’s working hard at it – it feels like it's all flowing through him. The most beautiful song of the Jimi Hendrix canon is ‘Little Wing’. It’s just this gorgeous song that, as a guitar player, you can study your whole life and not get down, never get inside it the way that he does. He seamlessly weaves chords and single-note runs together and uses chord voicings that don't appear in any music book. His riffs were a pre-metal funk bulldozer, and his lead lines were an electric LSD trip down to the crossroads, where he pimp-slapped the devil.”
“There are arguments about who was the first guitar player to use feedback. It doesn't really matter, because Hendrix used it better than anyone; he took what was to become Seventies funk and put it through a Marshall stack, in a way that nobody's done since.”
“It’s impossible to think of what Jimi would be doing now; he seemed like a pretty mercurial character. Would he be an elder statesman of rock? Would he be Sir Jimi Hendrix? Or would he be doing some residency off the Vegas Strip? The good news is his legacy is assured as the greatest guitar player of all time.”
Tasting initial success with ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’, ‘Are You Experienced’, ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ and ‘Electric Ladyland’ deified Jimi Hendrix and earned him a slot in the Woodstock Music Festival (1969) - a watermark in the counterculture era of psychedelic rock, pop-art, hippie movement and Vietnam war.
You might be thinking what exactly is Jimi Hendrix sound? It was an inventive use of sonic sounds of guitar, dynamic harmony of chord progressions and an innovative use of feedbacks, distortions and wah-wah which makes it the quintessential Jimi Hendrix sound. In fact, he inspired a whole generation of rock and roll and heavy metal with his distinct sound. And quite rightly, he stands above BB King, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Pete Townshend.
Just listening to ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Foxy Lady’, ‘Bold As Love’, ‘Voodoo Child’, ‘Angel’, ‘Star Spangled Banner’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘Little Wing’ gives you an idea about Jimi’s sound, a sojourn to bohemian landscape of eclectic sounds and emotions.
It’s sad that Jimi Hendrix’s career was cut short as he died of an overdose of sleeping pills at twenty-seven years of age. In a career spanning less than a decade, Jimi touched pinnacle of fame and had he been alive today, who knows what all sounds he might have created out of a six-stringed instrument.
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