James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix is widely considered
to be the greatest electric guitarist in musical history, and one of the
most influential musicians of his era across a range of genres.
After initial success in Europe with his group The Jimi Hendrix
Experience, he achieved fame in the United States following his 1967
performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, Hendrix headlined the
iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. He
often favored raw overdriven amplifiers with high gain and treble and
helped develop the previously undesirable technique of guitar amplifier
feedback. Hendrix popularized the use of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream
rock. As a record producer, Hendrix also broke new ground in using the
recording studio as an extension of his musical ideas.
Hendrix was influenced by blues artists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters,
Howlin' Wolf, Albert King and Elmore James, rhythm and blues and soul
guitarists Curtis Mayfield and Steve Cropper, and the jazz guitarist Wes
Montgomery. Hendrix (who was then known as 'Maurice James') began
dressing and wearing a moustache like Little Richard when he performed
and recorded in his band from March 1, 1964 through to the spring of
1965. In 1966, Hendrix stated, "I want to do with my guitar what Little
Richard does with his voice."
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Hendrix won many of the most prestigious rock music awards in his
lifetime, and has been posthumously awarded many more, including being
inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music
Hall of Fame in 2005. An English Heritage blue plaque was erected in his
name on his former residence at Brook Street, London, in September 1997.
A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6627 Hollywood Blvd.) was
dedicated in 1994. In 2006, his debut US album, Are You Experienced, was
inducted into the United States National Recording Registry, and Rolling
Stone named Hendrix the top guitarist on its list of the 100 greatest
guitarists of all-time in 2003. He was the first person inducted into
the Native American Music Hall of Fame.
Hendrix synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice and his
guitar style was unique, later to be abundantly imitated by others.
Despite his hectic touring schedule and notorious perfectionism, he was
a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased
His career and death grouped him with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and
Brian Jones as one of the 27 Club, a group including iconic 1960s rock
stars who suffered drug-related deaths at the age of 27 within a two
year period, leaving legacies in death that have eclipsed the popularity
and influence they experienced during their lifetimes. Kurt Cobain was
later added to this list, also dying at the age of 27.
Despite his popularity and the lavish praise heaped upon his guitar
skills, he was surprisingly humble.
Musically, Hendrix did much to further the development of the electric
guitar's repertoire, establishing it as a unique sonic source, rather
than merely an amplified version of the acoustic guitar. Likewise, his
feedback, wah-wah and fuzz-laden soloing moved guitar distortion well
beyond mere novelty, incorporating other effects pedals and units
specifically designed for him by his sound technician Roger Mayer (such
as the Octavia and Univibe) with dramatic results.
Hendrix affected popular music with similar profundity; along with
earlier bands such as The Who and Cream, he established a sonically
heavy yet technically proficient bent to rock music as a whole,
significantly furthering the development of hard rock and paving the way
for heavy metal. He took blues to another level. His music has also had
a great influence on funk and the development of funk rock especially
through the guitarists Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers and Eddie Hazel
of Funkadelic, Prince, John Frusciante former member of the Red Hot
Chili Peppers and Jesse Johnson of The Time. His influence even extends
to many hip hop artists, including Questlove, Chuck D of Public Enemy,
Ice-T (who covered "Hey Joe" with his heavy metal band Body Count), El-P
and Wyclef Jean. Miles Davis was also deeply impressed by Hendrix and
compared his improvisational skills with those of saxophonist John
Coltrane, and Davis would later want guitarists in his bands to emulate
Hendrix. Hendrix was ranked number 3 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of
Hard Rock behind Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
Hendrix's guitar style also had significant influence upon future ZZ Top
guitarist Billy Gibbons and fellow Texas guitar legend Stevie Ray
Hendrix was ranked number 3 on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of
Rock N' Roll, behind the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. He has been
voted by Rolling Stone, Guitar World, and a number of other magazines
and polls as the best electric guitarist of all time.
Guitar World's readers voted six of Hendrix's solos among the top "100
Greatest" of all time: "Purple Haze" (70), "The Star-Spangled Banner"
(52), "Machine Gun" (32), "Little Wing" (18), "Voodoo Child (Slight
Return)" (11) and "All Along the Watchtower (5).
In 1992, Hendrix was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime