Jimi Hendrix died today, 42 years ago, September 18, 1970.
Here’s an excerpt from NBC News:
“It’s an interesting mix — Hendrix’s explosive pioneering guitar work and the many musical sounds that have come to Seattle since then. Kids who are barely familiar with grunge may not know why Hendrix is important, but if they take a few minutes and talk to someone who really knows music, they might begin to understand. Or they can just start listening. Four decades after his death, the music still speaks.”
This link to the above-referenced story also has a video of Hendrix playing “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969.
There’s also this story, from the UK’s “Sabotage Times”, about a Hendrix performance in Newcastle that the author attended on December 4, 1967:
“You can’t really liken him to anyone. Without wanting to bash the modern generation, it seems like a lot of bands ‘sound a bit like such and such’. With him that wasn’t really the case. He played the guitar left handed, and operated in a way people hadn’t seen before.”
Hendrix’s great career was cut short the way many were in that midway period of rock music, allegedly by an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol.
I’ll make the argument right here and now that he was the greatest electric guitar player that ever lived. There are many fans of other guitarists from that era (please don’t include artists who are also very talented but belong to a different generation, like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eddie Van Halen, who had the 60s guitarists as their idols). You could make the argument that Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page should be considered the greatest. Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, John Lennon, George Harrison, the list does go on and on.
Page was recording “IV” with Led Zeppelin when he was 27 (1971)…Clapton was touring with the band “Delaney and Bonnie and Friends” at the age of 27 (1972). He had just recorded his first solo album, “Eric Clapton” two years earlier. In 1974 he would release arguably his finest LP, “461 Ocean Boulevard”.
The point being that all were great guitarists at 27…but I believe that, while the others went on to achieve even greater heights, Hendrix’ talent–like Buddy Holly, for example–can only be judged by what has already been done. We can only speculate as to how great he might–would–have been.
Would he have surpassed them all? We’ll never know.