Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Hendrix at 70
Yes, that's what the cover of a recent issue of Guitar Player magazine said - Jimi would be 70 this year. My first reaction was, "why did they have to remind me that it's been that long?" Then I got over it and read the article. Here's a link to the online version:
They made a point of getting appreciations and anecdotes from people like Adrian Belew, Steve Vai, Mike Kenneally, Reeves Gabrels, Nels Cline, Phil Keaggy and many others - a diverse assemblage of brilliant guitar players who are known to be highly talented, adventurous and individualistic - in other words, musicians that have some things in common with Hendrix. Yet they all consider him one of their greatest influences and inspirations. Why? Why is he still relevant today? Read on as I put in my two cents worth.
Jimi's imagination was always going full blast. He was one of that rare breed of artist who was naturally creative and highly motivated to constantly push forward into unknown and innovative directions. This applied to the way he played guitar, the songs he wrote, the sounds he created, and the equipment he used.
I have read that his wild imagination may have been his personal way of dealing with a lot of painful and hard circumstances in his childhood. He was known to love science fiction, and his lyrics often have fantasy and sci-fi elements to them. That all makes sense to me. What I like is that his music conveyed the sense that it was fun to be imaginative, fun to be intensely creative, fun to rock out and go wild. There is a joy and enthusiasm in his music that needs no words to be understood. This is a valuable lesson for anybody in the arts.
Jimi was evidently fearless in his willingness to try new and different things, to explore the unknown. I think that is directly related to how much joy it gave him, but it also shows strength of character, inner confidence and trust in his own intuition. I think it sends the message that if you love what you do and it brings you joy, it strengthens your resolve to plunge onward into the unavoidable uncertainty you experience on the path to manifesting a creative vision. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
There's an abundance of eloquent tributes to Hendrix, and there's a reason for that. Hendrix was a powerful, innovative talented musician; combining flash, finesse, groove, soul, wit and spaciness into a new thing totally his own. His work has withstood the test of time and his influence looms large over each new generation. If he was alive today, he'd still be kicking our ass.
Here's one of my favorites - Hendrix live, with a totally crushing version of Johnny B. Goode:
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