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Jimi Hendrix

The late Jimi Hendrix has been placed top of a wide-ranging list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time" in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine's staff compiled the survey, which includes classic rockers such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and the late Duane Allman.

Pete Townshend of The Who-who came in at number 50-said Hendrix deserves the honour, adding that "he made the electronic guitar beautiful" Without question, Jimi Hendrix was one of the most innovative, creative, determined guitarists of our time. While making a name for himself in music's history books, he blazed the way for other young guitarists to form their own sound while at the same time reaping the benefits from Hendrix's expertise.

Hendrix played a right-handed Fender Stratocaster upside-down and left-handed and pioneered the electric guitar as an electronic sound source capable of feedback, distortion, and a host of other effects that could be crafted into an articulate and fluid emotional vocabulary. Although he was on the scene as a solo artist for less than five years, Jimi Hendrix is credited for having a profound effect on everyone from Miles Davis to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

After being a sideman throughout the early 1960s for many groundbreaking R&B artists like Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, Hendrix found himself being pigeonholed. His talents weren't being used to their best abilities so Hendrix broke out on his own. Hendrix moved to New York in the mid-'60s, making waves in various clubs while hooking up with blues rocker John Hammond, Jr.'s band.

While playing in a club one night, Animals bassist Chas Chandler approached Hendrix. Convincing Hendrix to move to London, Chandler became his manager and worked with him on his first solo gig. Bringing drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding on board, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.

The Experience incorporated R&B and soul and melded those sounds into an eclectic pop variation of psychedelia just coming onto the scene. The London music scene in 1967 was exploding and so did Hendrix with his debut album, Are You Experienced? Hendrix took guitar playing to another level with songs like "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe" and "The Wind Cries Mary." Hendrix quickly jumped to the forefront of music. While each of those songs put Hendrix into the UK Top 10, they indirectly earned him a top spot at the Monterey Pop Festival in the United States later that year. Hendrix commanded everyone's attention while he played his guitar behind his back and over his head. His guitar wanderings incited a degree of spiritual hysteria, especially for the musician himself. He'd finger his guitar and then set it on fire, praying to the guitar gods who blessed him with his unbelievable craft.


Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969
Everyone from music moguls to teenage kids were taken by Hendrix's experimentation. He inspired many fans to seek out local guitar teachers in the hopes of one day being able to shred like their icon. Not since the likes of Eric Clapton or Pete Townshend had a young musician been able to take off on a stage. He'd use distorted riffs, mind-blowing feedback and heart-thumping wah-wah pedals to make his music speak to the crowd.
Hendrix would go on to record only two other full-length albums before he died of a drug overdose in 1970 at the age of 27; Axis: Bold As Love and the double-LP Electric Ladyland - still just as mind blowing today as it was nearly 30 years ago. In the course of the few years before he died, Hendrix seriously experimented in funk, jazz and Mississippi Delta blues, spending much time in the studio but never releasing an album. From these sessions, producers posthumously culled tracks and released Hendrix albums, both live and studio.

In July of 1995, Al Hendrix, Jimi's father, gained control of his son's estate. Currently with the help of his daughter, Janie Hendrix-Wright (Hendrix's sister and executor of his estate), the two have brought to fruition a video of the making of Electric Ladyland. Jimi Hendrix is buried in Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Renton, Wash., a suburb of Seattle.

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