The Life and Career of Jimi Hendrix

Born November 27th, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, Jimi Hendrix first attained success with his band in the UK before making it big in the U.S.A. Thanks to his unique style of electric guitar-playing and charisma on stage, Hendrix and the Jimi Hendrix Experience released several chart-topping records. Increasing tensions caused their breakup but Hendrix continued to make music with other musicians until his untimely death in 1970. In this, we take a look at the life and career of Jimi Hendrix. (Some images, videos and music courtesy of Experience Hendrix.)

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Childhood and Early Guitar Playing

James Marshall Hendrix was born on November 27th, 1942 in Seattle, Washington. His unstable childhood was mired by poverty and family problems, and he lost his mother when he was a teenager. However, it was around this time he received his first acoustic guitar. In 1959, he finally made the switch to electric and began playing with local bands.

Forming a Band

Hendrix enlisted in the army in 1961 to avoid prison time after being caught riding in stolen cars. During his year as a soldier, he met bassist Billy Cox, and they began to play with other musicians as a band. It was during this period that he also learned to play guitar with his teeth. Soon after, the band relocated to Nashville.

Touring the South with Different Bands

He then traveled with a few bands throughout the South to perform for mostly black audiences. By 1964, he had moved to New York City and was eventually asked to play guitar with The Isley Brothers. During the 1960s, Hendrix also performed and recorded with several acts, most notably King Curtis and Little Richard. In addition, he played around the city under the name Jimmy James with another band called The Blue Flame.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

In 1966, the former bassist of The Animals Chas Chandler became Hendrix’s manager. Chandler helped him form The Jimi Hendrix Experience with two English musicians: bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Television Appearances and Record Deal

After several European live performances, Hendrix began making a name for himself with appearances on the top UK music shows. He soon signed with the label Track Records, and with them he released three top ten UK singles.


The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album was 1967’s Are You Experienced. The critically and commercially successful record reached the second position on the UK charts and turned Hendrix into a worldwide star.

Psychedelic Rock

Thanks to his distortion and feedback-heavy electric guitar playing, the psychedelic rock LP is often considered one of the best rock albums in history.


Following some European tour dates, The Experience played at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival in California. This memorable performance ended with Hendrix burning and demolishing his guitar.

Second Record

Later that year, the band released the sophomore album Axis: Bold as Love. The psychedelic rock record charted within the top five of the UK and U.S. charts. It was on this LP that Hendrix began tuning down his guitar by a half-step and using the wah-wah pedal.

Third Album

The Experience’s third and last LP was 1968’s Electric Ladyland. The double album topped the Billboard 200 chart and had Hendrix experimenting with electronic effects and genres such as blues, R&B and Britpop.

Departures and New Line-Up

Frustrations between band members were at an all-time high during the subsequent tour and recording sessions. After Redding’s departure in 1969, Hendrix continued recording and playing with Mitchell. He also added several musicians to the new line-up, including his old friend Cox. Under the name Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, the band performed at the Woodstock music festival. The group disbanded after a few more shows and some studio recordings.

Band of Gypsys

Next, Hendrix, Cox and Buddy Miles formed Band of Gypsys, and the group released a self-titled live record in 1970. Later, Hendrix was accompanied by Mitchell and Cox for “The Cry of Love Tour.” He also spent some time recording at his Electric Lady Studios that same year.


Hendrix then played his last shows following a performance at the Isle of Wight Festival. On September 18th, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London, England. Like many stars of his generation, Hendrix was known for his drug use and his death was likely due to drug-related complications.

Posthumous Popularity

Despite his passing, the popularity of his music grew and several posthumous compilations were released. These included 1971’s The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge, 1997’s First Rays of the New Rising Sun and 2010’s Valleys of Neptune.

Lasting Influence

With his avant-garde musical ideas and incomparable guitar skills, Jimi Hendrix became one of the most influential artists in history.

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