Today, September 18th, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix’s passing. Though primarily associated with rock music, Jimi incorporated funk, rhythm and blues to create his remarkably complex signature sound. His legacy has influenced numerous artists across many genres including dance music. He is one of the most recognizable musicians of the modern era; his face gracing everything from t-shirts and mugs to cushions and murals.
To commemorate this special day, I have decided to share a photo album of my experience at Jimi Hendrix’s 40th anniversary in London, England. (see link below):
“Axis: Bold as Love” (1967) was the first album of his I listened to. I was absolutely floored by the richness of textures, soundscapes and lyrics. Quite frankly, I’d never heard anything like it! Jimi Hendrix took me on a journey of self-discovery whose effects resonate within my soul today. As a Black man, Jimi shook the lily-White rock establishment, placing himself at the apex with a bold act of cultural reclamation. Rock music evolved from early rhythm and blues artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard and Ike Turner, who never got commercial recognition as pioneers of this artform due to institutionalized racism.
Hendrix was fortunate to have worked with many gifted artists and pioneered innovative techniques such as the instrumental usage of feedback and the wah-wah pedal. “Electric Ladyland” (1968) is a sprawling testament to his genius, recorded during a chaotic period of personnel disputes and inner conflict with career goals and his hard-partying lifestyle.
The Band of Gypsys was a band unlike any other. Comprised of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, their brand of funk-laced rock produced one of the best concerts of all time (Live At The Fillmore East). Furthermore, they were an all-Black rock band – something virtually unheard of at that time. Unfortunately, their success was short-lived but their futuristic legacy lives on for anyone brave enough to pick up where they left off.
As an Afro-Indigenous musician of Native American ancestry, Hendrix proudly embraced his Cherokee heritage, evidenced by his choice of turquoise jewellery, fringed jackets and moccasins during iconic performances such as Woodstock (1969). In an era of police brutality and Black Lives Matter, Jimi is the embodiment of two marginalized groups united in the fight against racial injustice in North America. He raised political consciousness amongst youth of his generation with anti-war classic “Machine Gun” and his rebellious rendition of “Star-Spangled Banner.”
His untimely death raised many questions which may never be answered but the Electric Gypsy’s inimitable style lives on in our hearts and minds. Be Bold As Love from this day forth!
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