Long Before His Time: The Death Of Jimi Hendrix

On September 18, 1970, American record buyers had put the Carpenters at No.1 with “Close To You.” In the UK, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were on top with “Tears Of A Clown.” At the movies, we were watching Five Easy Pieces, Tora! Tora! Tora! and Kes. And, at the fateful age of 27, James Marshall Hendrix left us.

‘Super-talented naturally’

Jimi Hendrix’s influence on guitarists and on the music world in general only grows greater by the year. Modern-day artists who have gone on the record about the motivating effect his playing had on their own ambitions include his friend Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Prince, and Johnny Marr. The latter hero once said: “Jimi was super-talented naturally, but you don’t get to be that good just by rolling out of bed and crossing your fingers.”

Led Zeppelin were conducting a press conference in New York when they were told the news of Hendrix’s demise. Dealing with the shock and overcoming some intrusive questioning, Robert Plant went on to reflect: “He was completely fresh when he came along. ‘Hey Joe’ was the first record I ever heard [of his], and the atmosphere on the record is something that you can rarely capture on wax. It was an incredible sound.”

Within two months of the sad news, “Voodoo Chile” was top of the UK singles chart. On the next album chart after his untimely departure, Hendrix’s current release Band Of Gypsys reappeared on the bestsellers — rather spookily at No.27. It then climbed to No.14.

Among the many ways in which Hendrix’s death impacted his peers, one little known fact is that at this time, a young Mark Knopfler had just quit his job as a newspaper reporter. “They gave me one last story to write up an hour before I left,” he remembered. “It turned out to be the story of Jimi’s death.”

Noel dreams of Jimi

His former colleague in the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding, also told a touching tale. “I never used to dream about Jimi,” he said, “but one night I had a dream and Jimi came into the room. I said ‘But you’re dead,’ and he said ‘It’s cool, I just wanted to see you again.’”

Further evidence of the Hendrix legacy has come each year with the Experience Hendrix Tour, the 2017 edition of which played 29 shows across America. Featured players included such admirers and guitar greats in their own right as Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Jonny Lang. Others in the tour’s cast list over the years have included David Hidalgo & Cesar Rosas, Mato Nanji, the Slide Brothers, and many more.

The 2o19 tour, covering the West Coast and southwest states in October 2019, featured Guy, Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Taj Mahal, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Doyle Bramhall II and many more. Furthermore, Jimi’s music continues to reach new audiences on record, with the 2018 release Both Sides Of The Sky reaching the Top 10 both in the UK and the US. In December 2022, Experience Hendrix returned for a one-night-only event at ACL Live at the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas.

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