By Ollie Kelly
Born in 1942 in Seattle, Washington, Jimi Hendrix is known as one of the greatest electric guitarists of all time. He had a huge influence on Prince, David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more bands and artists, but his life story is full of tragedy. Jimi had a difficult upbringing. Lucille, Jimi’s mother, was only 17 when Jimi was born. She had a stormy relationship with his father, Al, and eventually left the family after having two more children, Leon and Joseph. Jimi would see his mother only intermittently before her death in 1958. Jimi spent a large portion of his childhood with his grandfather, Bertran Philander Ross Hendrix, and grandmother, Zenora Rose Moore. Jimi’s Grandfather, Bertran, was involved with the Military before he became Jimi’s guardian. Both grandparents struggled with alcohol addiction and often fought whilst intoxicated. The violence sometimes drove Jimi to withdraw and hide in the closet.
his school’s social worker knew straight away he had a passion for music.
At Horace Mann Elementary in Seattle during the mid-1950’s, Jimi had a habit of carrying a broom with him to emulate a guitar. The school’s social worker knew straight away he had a passion for music. After more than a year of clinging on to the broom, the social worker requested that the school invest in musical equipment. The school declined. Jimi found a decrepit ukulele in a rubbish bin outside a retirement home. The ukulele had only had one string, but Jimi learned by ear, playing single notes and following along to Elvis Presley’s songs. Later, at the age of 15, Jimi acquired his first acoustic guitar for $5. Playing the guitar seven hours a day, Jimi got tips from experienced guitarists.
At 19, Jimi joined the army. After 8 weeks of basic training, Jimi joined the 101st Airborne Division. After a few months of being in the army, his crew found Jimi’s weak point: his love for his guitar. Jimi’s crew hid his guitar for months, which ended up driving Jimi insane. In September 1963, one year after joining, Jimi was discharged. From that point on, Jimi’s musical career grew. Jimi moved to Clarksville, Tennessee and formed a band called the King Kasuals. Although the band played at low paying venues they went to Nashville’s Jefferson Street, which is the traditional heart of the black community, and this is where the band thrived. On top of being a member of the King Kasuals, Jimi was a backup vocalist for Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke, Tina Turner and Jackie Wilson. Jimi became the leading guitarist for Don Covay “Mercy Mercy.” The track reached number 35 on the Billboard chart.
“Jimi was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
On May 12, 1967, Jimi released his famous album, “Are You Experienced.” The album spent thirty-three weeks on the charts. In 1985, Guitar World Magazine described “Are You Experienced” as “the album that shook the world… leaving it forever changed.” Many years after the album was released, “Are You Experienced” became appreciated even more, and is said to be in the top 15 greatest albums by many people. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame states that “Jimi was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.” Jimi expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ventured before. In 1967, readers of Melody Maker voted Jimi the pop musician of the year. In 1968, Rolling Stone declared him performer of the year and Seattle gave him the keys to the city.
September 17, 1970, Jimi passed away. He spent most of the day with his wife Monika Dannemann, who was the only witness of his final hours. She said she woke up at 11 a.m, and found Jimi still breathing, but unresponsive. She called an ambulance at 11:18 a.m, which arrived at the scene at 11:28 a.m. Paramedics then drove Jimi to St Mary Abbot’s Hospital where Dr. John Bannister pronounced him dead at 12:45 pm. To determine the cause of death Coroner Gavin ordered a post-mortem. The post-mortem results concluded that Jimi aspirated on his own vomit, and died of asphyxia while intoxicated. Robert Donald Teare later revealed that Jimi had taken 9 prescribed sleeping tablets, 18 times the recommended dosage. September 29 Jimi was interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Washington, the same location as his mother’s grave. Over 200 people attended the funeral. As heavy metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen says, “ Jimi created modern electric guitar playing, without a question… he was the first. He started it all. The rest is history.”