Guitar god: Jimi Hendrix died 50 years ago

Guitar clean
Jimi Hendrix died 50 years ago

Gifted: Jimi Hendrix in 1966. Photo: picture alliance / UPI / dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

Jimi Hendrix not only played the guitar – he mastered it to a level of perfection that opened up new worlds for his fans. He died 50 years ago.

Jimi Hendrix’s life was short and intoxicating. He was only 27 years old – as did Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.

For years, the guitar legend fascinated fans with carpets of sound like thunderstorms. Hendrix let his instrument explode, hum, howl and crash like no one before and no one after him. The “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” called the idol of the American hippie movement the “most talented instrumentalist of all time”. Jimi Hendrix died 50 years ago (September 18).

Hendrix, born in Seattle in 1942, began his career at the age of 20 – but initially others were in the limelight. Hendrix accompanied stars like Curtis Knight, Ike & Tina Turner and Sam Cooke on guitar. “Jimi stole the show from me. I thought people were applauding me, but they applauded him, ”Little Richard, who died in May of that year, recalled later. Hendrix wanted to be more than just an accompanist; he wanted to start his own career as a guitarist, singer and songwriter.

But the American audience in New York in the mid-1960s was not yet ready for his unconventional way of playing the guitar with his teeth and on his back. In 1966 Chas Chandler, bassist for The Animals, persuaded him to come to London with him. Together with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding he founded the band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Their show became a sensation and Hendrix became a black musician with a white audience. Stars like Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton loved it.

The band’s first single, an interpretation of the American folk song “Hey Joe”, made it to number six on the British charts. The band released three albums with popular titles such as “Purple Haze”, “Little Wing” or “Vodoo Child” until they broke up in 1969. The last album “Electric Ladyland” made it to number one on the American Billboard charts.

But the audience especially loved the live performances. How Hendrix there, his teased hair artfully held by a headband, worked his instrument with fingers, lips and teeth, made it a love object and often destroyed it in the end. The amplifier was almost always turned up. “Faith comes to people through electricity,” said Hendrix. “That’s why we play so loud. We want our sound to hit people’s souls directly. ”

His version of the American national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 became a historic milestone in music history. During the performance Hendrix imitated machine guns, bomb strikes and military aircraft in a brutal way with his guitar. Many saw it as a protest against the Vietnam War.

Hendrix himself, however, was reluctant to appear on the “Dick Cavett Show”, saying he had a nervous breakdown before the performance, he said. Regarding his interpretation of the US anthem, he just said: “I don’t know, man. All I’ve done is play it. I’m American, so I played it. ” Nor did he find it “unorthodox”, just beautiful.

In the TV interview, Hendrix also revealed how tired he was. He hadn’t slept the night before. Not only the insomnia was to become more and more of the undoing. The rise to a world star and the immense expectations overwhelmed him. Hendrix began to use more and more drugs and to withdraw. He did not survive his last intoxication – just a few days after his performance on Fehmarn.

For a long time there were rumors about Hendrix’s death in the London apartment of his German friend Monika Dannemann. But according to all the signs and the official version, the guitar legend died a small, miserable and accidental death on September 18th. After a bottle of wine and possibly overdosed sleeping pills, he choked on his own vomit.


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