Born Johnny Allen Hendrix (later changed to James Marshall) on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. He learned to play guitar as a teenager, and grew up to become a rock guitar legend. He had a difficult childhood, sometimes living in the care of relatives and even acquaintances at times.
His mother, Lucille, was 17 years old when Hendrix was born. She had a stormy relationship with his father, Al, and eventually left the family after the couple had two more children together, sons Leon and Joseph. Hendrix would only see his mother sporadically before her death in 1958.
Hendrix enlisted in the United States Army in 1961 and trained at Fort Ord in California to become a paratrooper. Hendrix served in the army until 1962 when he was discharged due to an injury.
After leaving the military, Hendrix pursued his music, working as a session musician and playing backup for such performers as King Curtis, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers and Curtis Knight and the Squires. He formed a group called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, which played gigs around New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood.
In spring og 1966 Hendrix met Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Keith Richards. She tried to get the Stones and their manager interested in Hendrix, but without luck. In mid-1966, Linda Keith met Chas Chandler in New York, while he was on a farewell tour with the Animals, a successful rock group. Chas was quitting the group to become a manager, and was looking for an artist to record “Hey Joe”. Chandler convinced Hendrix to go to London where he joined forces with musicians Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to create The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Released in 1967, the band’s first single, “Hey Joe” was an instant smash in Britain, and was soon followed by other hits such as “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cried Mary.” He won over American music fans with his stunning performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, which ended with Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire.
Hendrix scored again with his second album, Axis: Bold as Love (1968). His final album as part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland (1968), was released and featured the hit “All Along the Watchtower,” which was written by Bob Dylan. The band continued to tour until it split up in 1969.
That same year, Hendrix performed at another legendary musical event: the Woodstock Festival. His rock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” amazed the crowds and demonstrated his considerable talents as a musician. He was also an accomplished songwriter and musical experimenter. Hendrix even had his own recording studio in which he could work with different performers and try out new songs and sounds.
Hendrix formed A Band of Gypsys in late 1969 with his army buddy Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. The band never really took off, and Hendrix began working on a new album tentatively named First Rays of the New Rising Sun, with Cox and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Unfortunately Hendrix did not live to complete the project.
Hendrix died on September 18th, 1970. While this talented recording artist was only 27 years old at the time of his passing, Hendrix left his mark on the world of rock music and remains popular to this day.