In a painfully short, four-year career, a scrawny southpaw with a gypsy's soul and hands like catcher's mitts indelibly changed music forever. Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, WA. Hendrix's love affair with music was consummated at 15, when he bought a cheap acoustic guitar from a friend of his father. Due to trouble with the law, Hendrix joined the army, which, by all accounts, he hated. Hendrix gained swift discharge and decided to try his hand as a pickup guitarist. After an unsuccessful tenure in Tennessee, Hendrix relocated to New York, where he was spotted by bassist Chas Chandler of the Animals. Chandler was hoping to reinvent himself as a talent manager. Once he saw Hendrix perform "Hey Joe," Chandler knew he found his talent. The aspiring manager took his prodigy to London, and hooked him up with local musicians Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums).
In early 1966, the line-up was set, under the moniker of "the Jimi Hendrix Experience." In 1967, the trio created arguably the greatest debut in rock history, Are You Experienced? Produced by Chandler at De Lane Lea, their blend of psychedelic rock and blues captivated music fans and critics. Featuring all-time classics such as "Foxy Lady" and "Fire," the disc set an almost unfathomable standard for what rock music should be. Hendrix's acrobatic, face-melting leads punctuated his soulful voice, while Mitchell and Redding's rock-steady rhythm section provided a sturdy backdrop to Hendrix's prodigious talent. Hendrix also demonstrated the rare ability to mix virtuosic guitar leads with intricate, melodic rhythm guitar work. His appearance at Monterey Pop in 1967 made Are You Experienced? a major hit in the US in the latter half of the year, following the success of its singles in England earlier that year.
Though his career was cut short by a fatal cocktail of sleeping pills and red wine, Hendrix achieved an almost incomprehensible amount in merely 27 years on earth and four years in the business as a major artist. Following his debut, he would release two more groundbreaking studio albums, 1967's Axis: Bold as Love and 1968's Electric Ladyland, both of which boasted a more experimental flair than his first record. Hendrix famously performed at Woodstock in 1969, and would release an explosive live album with a new, short-lived band, the Band of Gypsies, following the Experience's disbandment in 1969. Formed with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox, the Band of Gypsies would release one memorable live album. The Experience would briefly reunite and tour, but Hendrix never realized First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the intended follow-up to Electric Ladyland, because he tragically passed away in September of 1970. As evidenced by posthumous releases, including live material, reissues, and compilations of studio outtakes, and scores of young guitarists trying their damnedest to work out "Purple Haze" and his ubiquity on "Best of All-Time" lists, Hendrix's legacy and influence remains strong decades after his death.