Jimi Hendix and the Experience of the Blues

Jimi Hendrix was the first guitar player who massively used a lot of sounds and new approaches to his instrument: the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. While it is true that he might not be the best guitar player, Jimi Hendrix has influenced and continues influencing many guitar players from all over the world. He is known as the master of feedback and because of his unconventional ways of playing the guitar, using his tongue or other parts of his body to attack the strings.

Are you experienced? UK[1] His first album was called Are You Experienced and was released in 1967. Even though Jimi Hendrix was an american musician, this album was recorded in London, after the former bass player of the Animals, Brian ‘Chas’ Chandler, had discovered Jimi Hendrix in New York and invited him to England, which at this time was very receptive to blues music. There are earlier recordings of Jimi Hendrix, but they were singles. Little Wing, e.g., or Hey Joe.
On his debut album Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix on guitar is accompanied by Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass. The album included two types of songs, typical blues songs and psychodelic sounding songs. Hendrix insisted on the inclusion of blues songs, since these were his musical roots. If you listen to the records of Jimi Hendrix, you will hear a lot of use of the blues scales.
There are two different releases of this album, the original one released in the UK which included the following tracks:

  1. Foxy Lady
  2. Manic Depression
  3. Red House
  4. Can You See Me
  5. Love or Confusion
  6. I Don’t Live Today
  7. May This Be Love
  8. Fire
  9. Third Stone From the Sun
  10. Remember
  11. Are You Experienced?

Are you experienced US release cover artThe US version of the same album, released a few months after the original release in Great Britain, included other songs and became the most sold album in the United States in 1968. Here is the songlist of this release, as you can see, this version of the album contains some of Jimi Hendirx best known songs, which were included beause they had become hits in the UK charts. On the other hand, some songs of the original release had to be excluded, since at that time, the records had a more limited duration as the modern cds and dvds. Even though Jimi Hendrix was against the exclusion of the song Red House, he had to accept it. The producers ‘explained’ to him, that the

  1. Purple Haze
  2. Manic Depression
  3. Hey Joe
  4. Love or Confusion
  5. May This Be Love
  6. I Don’t Live Today
  7. The Wind Cries Mary
  8. Fire
  9. Third Stone From the Sun
  10. Foxy Lady
  11. Are You Experienced?

Here is an audio example of Jimi Hendrix playing his song Hey Joe, hosted on archive.org.
Hey Joe is a song from the 1960s and today it is not clear who wrote it. Certainly, Jimi did not write it, he just played a cover of the song. However, this cover is today the best known version of this song about a jealous guy who plans to shoot his woman for cheating on him, lyrics very tyical for blues songs.

The Jimi Hendrix version of the song was covered by many artists with different musical styles. Among them are Patti Smith, the Who, Frank Zappa and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song also entered the Guiness Book of Records in several ocasions, when on May 1, 2006, in Wroclaw, a town in Poland, 1,572 musicians played  this song simultaneously. The record was broken in several occasions until  on May 1, 2012, it was establishe with 7,273 guitar players performing Hey Joe simultaneously on the town square of Wroclaw.

In 1969, Jimi Hendrix was arrested in Toronto under the charges of possession of Heroin. Later the charges were withdrawn. In the same year, Chas Chandler, his manager who had discovered him in New York and brought to stardom in the United Kindom in the mid 1960s, abandoned his job after loosing a discussion with Levine who did not like the artistic direction Jimi’s career was taking.

Here is another of Jimi Hendrix’ recordings: Purple Hazem which Jimi wrote after he had been dreaming that he was walking on the ground of the ocean. Musically speaking, the song begins with an introduction followed with what today is known as the Hendrix Chord, a dominant seventh chord with an augmented ninth.

This song has also been covered by many artists, among them are: Frank Zappa, the Cure, the Art Ensemble of Chicago,  the Buena Vista Social Club and D. H. Peligro.

In an interwiev, Jimi Hendrix talked about the differences between live performances and studio recordings, stating that when a song was recorded for the first time, it represented a lot of work, the lyrics and the general structur of the song had to be established and polished. But when he would play this song on stage, people would already know the song and they could not expect that he would play it the same way as it was recorded. In case the public expected something like that, it would be enough to get on stage with a box of his records and handle them over to the public, who could go home and play the records in their houses.
This way  of thinking is opposed to what modern music industry executives think. They want a highly industrialized product, a song that is without doubt played the same way every time the ‘artist’ performs it. That is why playback has become so popular, especially among the musicians discovered and produced by television stations.

On June 29, 1969, the last performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience took place. After that, Hendrix formed a new band, integrating Mitch Mitchel on drums, a rhythm guitar player Larry Lee, a new bass player, Billy Cox, and two percussionists, Jerry Velez and Jumah Sultan. At the Woodstock Festival, this formation played the famous Star Spangled Banner version in which the american national anthem is mixed with guitar sounds that remember the bombs falling over Vietnam.

Jimi Hendrix played his last concert on the Festival on the Isle Of Wight, in a trio formation with his old drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass player Billy Cox. He died in September 1970, aged 27. There are rumours, that he was killed by his manager, to whom he was worth more dead than alive, since he feared to be dumped as a manager for Jimi and got about 2 million dollars as the beneficiary of Hendrix’ life insurance policy.

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