The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Jimi Hendrix

Created in cooperation with Experience Hendrix, the organization founded by the Hendrix family to preserve the legacy of Jimi Hendrix, this special exhibit includes interactive kiosks (featuring previously un-released tracks from the boxed set The Jimi Hendrix Experience), family photos, original drawings, guitars, costumes, lyrics and other artifacts.

More on Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas where no musician had ever ventured before. Many would claim him to be the greatest guitarist ever to pick up the instrument. At the very least his creative drive, technical ability and painterly application of such effects as wah-wah and distortion forever transformed the sound of rock and roll. Hendrix helped usher in the age of psychedelia with his 1967 debut, Are You Experienced?, and the impact of his brief but meteoric career on popular music continues to be felt.

More than any other musician, Jimi Hendrix realized the fullest range of sound that could be obtained from an amplified instrument. Many musical currents came together in his playing. Free jazz, Delta blues, acid rock, hardcore funk and the songwriting of Bob Dylan and the Beatles all figured as influences. Yet the songs and sounds generated by Hendrix were original, otherworldly and virtually indescribable. In essence, Hendrix channeled the music of the cosmos, anchoring it to the earthy beat of rock and roll.

Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942, in Seattle (his name was changed to James Marshall Hendrix four years later). As a child, he was drawn to normal boyhood interests, like football and baseball, as well as more creative pursuits. He was an avid artist; his family still has dozens of drawings and paintings that Jimi did as a child. He wrote poetry and showed an interest in music early on. When he was 16, his father bought him his first guitar. Shortly thereafter, he began playing with various bands, including the Rocking Kings, around the Seattle area.

After a brief stint in the Army – he was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne – Hendrix hit the road with a succession of club bands and as a backup musician for such rhythm & blues artists as Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, the Impressions and Sam Cooke. In 1966 he was discovered by Chas Chandler, the former Animals bassist, while performing at New York’s Cafe Wha? with his group, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Chandler became Hendrix’s manager and brought him to England, where he absorbed the nascent psychedelic movement, changed the spelling of his first name to “Jimi” and formed a trio, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded three landmark albums - Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland - in a year and a half. Hendrix’s theatrical, incendiary performances at the Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals, including the ceremonial torching of his guitar at Monterey, have become part of rock and roll legend. Under extreme pressure due to their nonstop work and sudden celebrity, the trio broke up in early 1969. Hendrix commenced work on a projected double album and debuted a new trio, Band of Gypsys, at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve, 1969. Hendrix performed his last concert at the Isle of Fehmarn, Germany, on September 6, 1970 (though he joined Eric Burdon and War onstage on September 16 at Ronnie Scott’s in London). On September 18, he died from suffocation, having inhaled vomit due to barbiturate intoxication.

In the wake of Hendrix’s death, a flood of posthumous albums – everything from old jams from his days as an R&B journeyman to live recordings from his 1967-1970 prime to previously unreleased or unfinished studio work – hit the market. In the late Nineties, after years of lawsuits, Hendrix’s family finally gained control of his music. They have since begun releasing his catalog in an organized fashion and as the guitarist originally intended.

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All Access: The Story of Rock - Jimi Hendrix