This is why I love college, I get to write things like the article I wrote for History & Appreciation of Rock at UNF on Jimi Hendrix. I had to go for one of the best first, and he fit the best at the time, now here is my paper.:
Let’s hope for an A :]
Jimi Hendrix was a revolutionary guitarist who stretched chords out, and produced some of the greatest riffs off of the electric guitar. He also used distortion and static to create his unique sound. And although Jimi is no longer with us, recent discoveries of new music show us although he died young, his potential was great.
The newly released music comes from the never released album Valley of Neptune. Songs on this album were recently unheard of or were old songs just played differently. One of the songs titled “Lover Man” off of Valley of Neptune starts with a nice bluesy solo with a drummer accompanying the melody that the solo takes, even though the solo goes off on little riffs every little bit. It sounds like Jimi is embellishing on notes and taking the chord low and high to maintain a melody but allows him to also add in the riffs and changing of chords to make the song more interesting. Little singing, but his voice melds with the rough sound of the guitar. “Lullaby for the Summer” is a quick paced, guitar filled solo, with an echo of a second guitar, and a march-like quality to the drums. Nice use of bass, and what sounds like a wa-wa bar. The title track, “Valleys of Neptune” from the album of the same name starts with a strumming guitar and like a trembling cymbal sound. Jimi lays out lyrics over the melody to try and paint a mental image of Neptune rising and what might happen in the days to come. This song starts out sounding like its anxious with the cymbal and then it sweeps into a faster song with lyrics, and comes through to an almost resolution of words that immediately slows the guitar down until he just quietly strums to a fade out. This album could have been, if Jimi had lived, the first to be recorded and mixed at Electric Lady, Jimi’s own recording studio that officially opened only three weeks before his death. In a recent Rolling Stone article from the April 1, 2010 issue called, “The Last Days and Lost Music of Jimi Hendrix” by David Fricke describes how, “Electric Lady Studios was the guitarist’s own state-of-the-art recording facility, and he had personally supervised many of its psychedelic details, like the mural of an elfin woman at the console of a spaceship,” and how Electric Lady was “where he could live with his music without interference” (Fricke, pg. 52 RS).
Jimi Hendrix was an exuberant showman who put on a good show, but off stage Jimi Hendrix was a very shy man. In part it seems that Electric Lady was to be his rescue from the stress of being on the road all the time. It is unfortunate to know that maybe if Jimi Hendri had instead canceled all the dates on the tour instead of after playing Britain, Scandinavia, and Germany. Jimi Hendrix died in November of 1970 in London, “’the official cause of death was ‘inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication’” (Fricke). The drug that he took was a large quantity of the sedative, Vesperax.
Jimi Hendrix began touring right after he was discharged from the army for an injury resulting from jumping from an airplane. He began by playing back-up guitar to acts like Little Richard, or Ike and Tina Turner. He started his own bands, and eventually gained success in Britain. But he received instant success in America after his performance of the song, “Wild Thing” at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967 in Monterey, California. At the end of “Wild Thing,” Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire. Kids, having never seen such a performance of this flamboyant and destructive act done with so much passion, were hooked and Hendrix then became a very popular performer within American society. Jimi also swept the stage at Woodstock during the three days of love, peace, and music at the farm in Bethel, New York in August of 1969. He gave a mind-blowing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner played on his electric guitar. The many fans who were lucky enough to be in attendance at Woodstock witnessed an amazing musical event in our history of the 60’s. Luckily, fairly good recordings of the event exist and I was lucky enough to find one. I love how he expands and distorts the classic chords that make up the Star Spangled Banner. I think it sort of shows how America is different and how we grow and take old aspects and change them to make them unique and personal. His music defiantly has a chapter in the history of American music with his unique guitar playing style and personal style. Jimi Hendrix intertwined the performance of the Star Spangled Banner with the song, “Purple Haze.” The fast pace riffs that build, give you an idea of the solo as a whole and how in places distortion leeks in to intensify the song. The exploration of chords, use of lighter strums, use of heavier and deeper riffs with distortion and amplification to make the song and the guitar vibrate along. Jimi’s personal style of experimenting with the sounds he could make from his guitar is really why Jimi Hendrix is hailed as one of the best guitarist ever.
Jimi’s style started generations of kids picking up guitars and teaching themselves to play it. That’s how Jimi learned, he taught himself on an old acoustic guitar before getting his first electric. Jimi Hendrix can be attributed with influencing bands like: Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Sublime, and many others. He died before he could see how his style encouraged more to take the guitar and do more with it then had been before. Jimi Hendrix’s many recordings were results of jam sessions with the band. He took songs and did them one way, and then redid them another way. This process of recording and re-recording happened until a piece got mixed perfectly.
If Jimi Hendrix was alive today, then rock and roll might be more different if he had continued to experiment and expand the genre. But all we can do is imagine a time when Jimi is still alive instead of dead. At least we have his music to have as a soundtrack as we go through our own lives.
Fricke, David. “The Last Days and Lost Music of Jimi Hendrix.” Rolling Stone. April 1, 2010.