When I read the news that morning, I really didn’t know what to think. It was surreal, it could not have happened. The music world and I were put in a state of shock when we lost the most dynamic and dominant electric guitar player ever. Jimi Hendrix never did anything with electric guitars in a conventional way. When he exploded on the scene in London, the world was taken by surprise and did not know what hit it for a while. This man who made new guitar sounds and did unthinkable things to his guitars died of asphyxiation while in a drugged stupor.
I was about 17 years old then, and really could not grasp the finality of death. I was in my own little world and had never lost anyone I loved or had strong feelings for. Except for my Grand Daddy when I was three. I have some memory of my visits with him and remember I loved him very much, but children’s minds protect them from the stiff realities of death.
Now I’m 55 years old and look at death differently. People I loved dearly have passed and more will come. The young folks are old now, it makes me feel mortal and realize everyone is. Even Jimi Hendrix was mortal. The man from Venus, a person who captivated me musically and emotionally. It was not just his guitar playing or his flashy clothes that consumed me so much. His words rang true to me, the things Jimi sang about I totally understood and related to. Maybe I’m from Venus too. For me Jimi Hendrix was the entire package, I figured he would live forever. The losses mean a lot more to me now. They hurt to the core.
As a matter of interest, in 1970 and 1971 the rock world lost two other important contributors. Janis Joplin died on October 4th 1970 and Jim Morrison of the “Doors” died in 1971 on July 3rd. Both succumbed to early drug induced deaths.
Jimi Hendrix, with so much raw emotion and pure unadulterated instinct for the playing the guitar caused an immediate change in my life. Here is a true story. I had been taking highly disciplined classical guitar lessons from a dircect disciple of Andres Segovia for 4 or 5 years when I heard Jimi Hendrix on the radio the first time. It was WHFS Radio FM in Bethesda Maryland, an alternative radio station. WHFS played the first live English BBC Radio recording of Jimi Hendrix and The Band of Gypsies performing “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze” about 6 months before any other stations in our area. In fact I have eight or more 10″ reels of bootleg recordings and all sorts of performances he gave that never were on vinyl. I still have my Teac 3300 reel to reel also.
That was the last time I played a classical guitar. I still have my 1954 Gibson classical guitar too, and I looked at it a few years ago, yup, it was still in the case! You can call me narrow minded, I don’t mind at all. Why? I’ll never get over Hendrix, his music comprises 80% of what I listen to, thirty eight years after his passing. His music is also 80% of what I choose to play on my electric guitar. I even have a right handed Fender Voodoo Stratocaster with a reverse headstock. It is setup just like the electric guitars of Jimi Hendrix were. At least from what we know about them.
We will never know what James Marshall Hendrix would have brought to us had he lived on. One thing for sure, it would be beautiful in Jimi’s unconventional way. He kick started a generation of guitar players that raised the level of the art to infinity. Like I said before, Jimi had some important vibes to speak to us about, some people thought he was nuts, but he had a lot to say, put that with his guitar work and the way he soulfully performed, and he reigns as the greatest ever.
The life of Jimi Hendrix changed my world, and his untimely death though unfortunate, could not put the genie back in the bottle. I miss him, and am still bonded to Jimi to this day, perhaps more than ever. We were gifted to have had Jimi Hendrix with us for the time he was here. Rest In Peace Jimi. “I’ll meet you in the next world, and won’t be late.” From “Voodoochild (slight Return)” by Jimi Hendrix. GPC