My name is Mike. I live in Lancsater County. I used to live in Hawaii. i like Burritos, Guitars and Stuff.
It seems that with amazing talent also comes with it, a limited mortal shelf life. The list of musicians bearing amazing talent being cut down at age 27 is staggering. Cobain, Joplin.. People easily identifiable by their last name alone, as if they were a great classical composer like Beethoven, Mozart or Bach. The name Hendrix, most certainly creates that imagry.
Had things gone differently for Jimi Hendrix, today he would have turned 70 years old. Having moved from Seattle Washington to London, he formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience in London, and brought it back across the pond to the US after the buzz was created in England. Quickly standing in league with established guitar virtuosos like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, Jimi usurped them. Redefining the way rock guitar was played. Nothing I am saying here is news to the reader.
My mind reels at how his musical legacy would have changed had he remained with us. He has posthumously sold millions on millions of recordings, both authorized and unauthorized. He was a notoriously bad businessman. His earthly affairs were in a shambles, as is the case with many creative types.
I wonder if albums like Cry Of Love, Crash Landing or War Heroes would have seen the light of day. He spend an extraordinary amount of time in the recording studio. But he would only live to see three studio projects released in his lifetime. The rest of his lifetime releases would consist of a greatest hits compilation as well as a live album “Band Of Gypsies”. Listening to that album, as I am now as I type this, can easily hear a departure from the sound and style he had nailed down in the Experience. He was not content to stay in one place very long as an artist. This was evident after he passed as more of the studio backlog came to light, and record companies big and small cashed in on Jimi’s obsessive recording habits.
What would of happened? Would the musical torrent have continued? Would there be drug busts, arrests? Would he and Eddie Kramer become a powerhouse recording duo? Would he have joined another band? Would he have become a mockery of himself.
As a player, he was not the fastest guy out there, or even that technically precise. What he DID have was an intricate knowledge of sound, and the knowhow to get the desired tones and effects effortlessly. In many cases, we still can't figure out *how* he got a lot of those sounds. Especially when you take into account the primative equipment available back in the 1960's as it compares with today. What made him even more enigmatic was his choice of weapons. A right handed Fender Stratocaster played left handed. He was not impressed with the quality of Fender Guitar’s left handed models, and felt that a higher standard of quality were present in it’s more popular right handed models. This caused right handed players, including me to go out in search of a left handed Fender Strat to play upside down as an homage to our hero. I have had my lefty Strat for years, and still lack the nerve to pick it up on stage. The image of the upside down Strat is so engrained into Jimi’s legacy, that I fear the risk of embarrassment by playing it. Not to mention that the upside down version of this guitar is wildly uncomfortable and not very user friendly, especially if you have any desire to go beyond the 14th fret.
Today Jimi is 70. Keith Richards, the poster child for old haggard rockers is 68. Would Jimi have followed the footsteps of Keith, or more accurately, would Keith have followed his? We will never know. Keith, comfortable with his legacy, as a hard living, hard looking after effect of rock and roll excess will never get to bask in the eternal 27 year old cool and style of James Marshall Hendrix. He will continue to amaze me for the rest of my life.