Hundreds of millions of people have played the guitar since its invention centuries ago, but it is near impossible to find any single one who matched the influence that Jimi Hendrix's life had, not only on the way it's played today, but on the culture he lived in as well. Beginning in his teenage years, Hendrix's life featured a soundtrack of creative riffs unlike any heard before. He enlisted in the army at age 18 where he trained to become a paratrooper. His service didn't stop him from expanding on his musical ability though, as he had his guitar with him at boot camp and experimented with it any time he wasn't training. Hendrix served for about a year until he was discharged after repeated conduct violations, including falling asleep on duty on multiple occasions. Hendrix refuted this however, purporting that a broken ankle suffered during a training exercise was the cause of his discharge.Whatever the true cause of his release was, it very possibly saved the life of the most revolutionary minds to ever strum the strings.
Hendrix met and performed with a bass player named Billy Cox while in the army, and once Cox was discharged in 1963 they moved down to Tennessee where they gigged whatever bars would let them. It was in Hendrix's time in Tennessee that he picked up one of his more famous gimmicks, playing the guitar with his teeth. Hendrix soon moved to Harlem where he had his first brush with fame. His impressive ability landed him a audition for the Isley Brothers' back up band, which went swimmingly. He found his way onto Little Richard's ensemble band as well, but their respective styles -- clothing and otherwise -- didn't match up so Jimi didn't stick around. Hendrix had gained enough of a reputation by then to be recommended to Chas Chandler, a member of the Animals who was leaving the group in pursuit of a managing career. Chandler saw potential in Hendrix, and he had him record a cover of "Hey Joe" as a foot in the door to shop him around London.
Chandler recruited Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to create the afro-donning Jimi Hendrix Experience. Three songs that the band recorded, "Hey Joe," "Purple Haze," and "The Wind Cries Mary," reached the top ten on the charts in Britain. Despite their success, they still pulled a now famous publicity stunt where Hendrix lit his guitar on fire after a set. The Jimi Hendrix Experience released four albums and concert records from 1967-1969, each as successful as the last. The group broke up in 1969, a move that would prove not to slow down Hendrix. He played at Woodstock that same year, holding the title of the highest paid rock musician in the world. Woodstock was the set where Hendrix played "The Star Spangled Banner" on his electric guitar, an innovative move that must be acknowledged whenever Woodstock is discussed.
Hendrix lived a hippy lifestyle, from the clothes he wore to the ideology he expressed, and along with that lifestyle came the use of drugs and alcohol. He used LSD, marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine, all but cocaine habitually. This came to be Hendrix's downfall, the cause of his untimely death on September 17th, 1970 at age 27. The autopsy on Hendrix concluded he died from choking on his own vomit after an overdose of barbiturates. The exact sequence of events leading to his death are shrouded in mystery but the sole witness, Monika Dannemann, claims he consumed 9 of her sleeping pills for which the recommended dose was a half pill. It was a tragic, abrupt end to the life and career of a rock legend and cultural icon. While Jimi Hendrix's life may have been cut out in its prime, it is hard to imagine that we will see a culmination of talent and charisma like his any time soon.