Jimi Hendrix is widely remembered as one of the best electric guitar players in the history of rock and roll, but he was also a gifted songwriter and a talented singer. His career was relatively short-lived, beginning around 1963 and ending with his death in 1970 at the age of 27. Nonetheless, in just that short span of time he managed to influence the music scene in a profound way. His major hits include “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Hey Joe,” “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze,” as well as his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
Aside from his major hits, Hendrix had a number of songs that showcased his numerous abilities as a musician. His songwriting abilities shine through in the sensitive lyrics of “Bold As Love,” while his ability to play the blues is evident in the song “Voodoo Chile.” Many of the rest of his songs are more oriented towards rock and roll, often driven by volume and electric melodies. He lit up the stage with his ability to harness multiple genres of rock, especially the psychedelic rock that was becoming popular in the late 1960s.
Not all of Hendrix’s songs were geared toward volume and hard rock. He also knew how to take things easy and turn out melodies that were easier and more pleasant, as seen in songs such as “Drifting” and “One Rainy Wish.” One of his most famous songs in this vein is “Little Wing,” one of his shorter R&B-infused pieces that makes reference to a winged figure that some have associated with a guardian angel, although Hendrix has compared the spritely figure to the bird spirits commonly found in Native American mythology.
While there have been many albums released posthumously since Hendrix’s death, he was only able to release three studio albums during his lifetime. The first was Are You Experienced, which showcased his diverse range of styles from blues to hard rock and psychedelic rock. Aside from the title track, it included songs such as “Foxy Lady,” “May This Be Love,” “Fire,” and “Third Stone from the Sun.” He then released Axis: Bold as Love, which was a bit more emotional and melodic, containing songs such as “Castles Made of Sand,” “One Rainy Wish,” “Bold as Love,” “Little Wing” and “Spanish Castle Magic.” Finally, he released Electric Ladyland, which was darker and contained more funk. It included the songs “Voodoo Chile,” “Gypsy Eyes,” “Crosstown Traffic,” “All Along the Watchtower” and “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland).”
Jimi Hendrix owes much of the influence behind his style to artists such as Chuck Berry, Curtis Mayfield, Little Richard and Muddy Waters, among others. However, most guitarists who came after Hendrix owe a great deal of their influence to him. The music he performed with his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was just that—an experience. He helped to popularize many techniques in guitar playing, such as the use of the wah-wah pedal and amplifier feedback. He was also notable for his use of “piano style” guitar playing, in which the thumb takes on the root chords while the rest of the fingers are used to play the melody. He was an instrumental pioneer with an understanding of the technical basics, and this helped him to become one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.
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