The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls him the greatest instrumentalists in the history of rock music, and he is still considered to be one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century.
All this in a career that spanned four years.
Born in Seattle on Nov. 27, 1942, he began playing the guitar at the age of 15. In 1941, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the US Army and was given an honorable discharge the following year. He soon moved to Tennessee, where he was part of the Isley Brothers’ backing band, and later he would serve as the backing band for Little Richard. In late-1966, he was discovered by Chas Chandler of The Animals, and he moved to England. Within just a few months, he had three top ten hits in the United Kingdom (Hey Joe, Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary) and would become famous worldwide after the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
His legend would grow that year, and on March 31, 1967, after thinking of a way to get The Jimi Hendrix Experience noticed, he poured lighter fluid over his guitar after a 45-minute show, and then lit it on fire. This earned him the title of “Black Elvis” and “Wild Man of Borneo” by the London Press. Later on that year at the Monterery Pop Festival, he would once again burn his guitar, which became an iconic image of rock and roll and blew his legend throughout the world. Immediately after the festival, he was booked for five more concerts.
In 1968, Electric Ladyland, his last studio album, hit number one in the United States. This would prove to be his most successful album and help make him the world’s highest-paid performer. In 1969, he was the headliner for the Woodstock Festival and in 1970, he would play the Isle of Wight Festival.
In 1969, The Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up and he officially became a true solo artist. Their last performance was on June 29, 1969.
He would sadly die on Sept. 18, 1970 at the age of 27 from a drug overdose.
The influence of Hendrix cannot be understated. Inspired himself by rock and roll and blues, he began to favor overdriven amplifiers on high volume and gain. He would be one of the leading artists to popularize the guitar amplifier feedback. He would also help to bring in the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock and he would be the very first artist to use stereophonic phasing in musical recording. Prior to Hendrix, musicians had experimented with feedback and distortion but it would be him that would turn those distortions and other sounds into music and, as some describe it, a fluid vocabulary.
During his lifetime, he would receive several awards for his work. In 1967, he was voted the Pop Musician of the Year by readers of Melody Magazine. In 1968, Billboard and Rolling Stone chose him as the Performer of the Year. He was awarded World Top Musician in 1969 and 1970 by Disc and Music Echo and that same year he would be named the Rock Guitarist of the Year by Guitar Player Magazine.
In 1992, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and 13 years later, it was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. In a ranking of the 100 greatest albums of all time, all three studio albums by Jimi Hendrix would be included by Rolling Stone. In addition, he was ranked as the greatest guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone, and the sixth greatest artist of all time by the same magazine.
Hendrix also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his first album has been preserved by the United States National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress, an English Heritage blue plaque exists at his former home at 23 Brook Street in London, the first granted to a pop star. There is also a statue of Hendrix in Seattle, as well as on the Isle of Wright. Jimi Hendrix Park in Seattle is also named after him.
Some of the artists that he has helped to influence, and there are many, include Prince, George Clinton, John Frusciante, Eddie Hazel and numerous hip-hop artists.