Hello and Goodbye
There had been none like him, and there will be none to come. Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the way guitar and music in general is played. It is rare to hear a modern guitarist play and not sense Hendrix’s influence. Jimi Hendrix was a mirror of his era in that he epitomized the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” life style of the late 60s. Hendrix is still immensely popular today because of his unprecedented guitar style coupled with an outrageous lifestyle and stage show.
The legend was born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle to James Allen and Lucille Hendrix. His given name was Johnny Allen Hendrix (White 254). His mother was a Cherokee Indian who had tuberculosis, but despite that she was wild and loved to party (White 254). Leon was Jimi’s little brother who was six years his junior (White 254). When Jimi was four, his father took him away from Lucille to make a fresh start. This is when his father renamed him James Marshall Hendrix (Richmond 482). According to Cherokee legend, if a child is named twice it will split his eternal spirit into
two different parts- half will go to heaven and half will go to hell (White 255). This may have been the underlying cause of Jimi’s turbulent youth.
James Hendrix traded in his own saxophone to buy Jimi a guitar (White 255). The prodigy could not read music and so taught himself to play by ear. The guitar his father had bought for him was a right-handed guitar, but Jimi was left-handed, so he adapted by simply turning the instrument upside down and proceeded to play (Richmond 482). At twelve Jimi began to play in local bands for a fee of free burgers and soda pop (Richmond 482). Jimi’s early influences were such blues greats as Muddy Waters, BB King, Chuck Berry, and Eddie Cochran (Richmond 482).
Jimi Hendrix dropped out of high school at age 17 and joined the army in 1959 (Vickers). The reason he did this is often debated, as are many facts about his life. Some say it was because he got in trouble with the law. Others say it was because he knew he would be drafted eventually. Whatever the reason, Jimi became a member of the elite Screaming Eagles paratrooper division (Richmond 482). In the service, Jimi became genuinely serious about playing guitar. He was shunned by most of the men in his division after rumors circulated that he slept with and talked to his Stratocaster, which had “Betty Jean” painted on the side in
memory of an old love (White 255). He played in military clubs on base where he met and befriended bassist Billy Cox, who would become an invaluable ally at the apex of his career (Richmond 482). After breaking his ankle on his 26th parachute jump, Hendrix was honorably discharged in 1961 (Vickers).
After his military stint, Hendrix began to play under the name Jimmy James...