A Closer Look: Jimi Hendrix - Cover

A Closer Look: Jimi Hendrix

When you hear the name Jimi Hendrix, it probably calls something to mind immediately. It might be a snippet of one of his songs, like the crushingly heavy riff that opens “Foxey Lady,” or the instantly recognizable “Purple Haze.”

Or it could be an image, like the famous photo that makes it look like he’s literally conjuring flames out of his guitar as part of his scene-stealing set at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival. Or maybe an outfit - like the white fringe leather jacket and custom crushed blue velvet pants he wore at Woodstock two years later, where his rendition of “Star Spangled Banner” became the most memorable moment at the defining musical event of his generation.

NOAH - SS22 - JIMI HENDRIX - 02 Günter Zint / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC.
NOAH - SS22 - JIMI HENDRIX - 03 © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Each of these is a facet of Jimi Hendrix’s artistry - a whole far greater than the sum of these parts. For us, there are very, very few who embody this kind of creativity - which he showed in his music, his performances and his style. The Jimi Hendrix Experience wasn’t just the name of his band, but a promise of what you were in for.

Let’s take the guitar, the aspect of his music he is best known for. People realized early on that nobody could play like Hendrix and when he arrived in London late in 1966, everybody took immediate notice. He could play just about anything and made the difficult seem easy, playing blues standards at breakneck speed with inventive solos. But his gift wasn’t just his chops - he fused the energy of rock ’n roll and the emotion of the electric blues and channeled it into a way of playing that had an unbelievable range of expression - more like the human voice than an instrument.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (Live In Maui, 1970)

It didn’t seem like he was content with being one of the greatest guitarists of his time, though. He explored the latest technology of the time, using effects pedals and studio techniques to transform the instrument - along with voice and drums - into a pure, universal electronic sound. Take a moment to listen to “…And The Gods Made Love,” the opening track to Electric Ladyland. On headphones if you can. To hear it is to get a sense of possibilities that he alone seemed capable of imagining.

NOAH - SS22 - JIMI HENDRIX - 02 Graham F. Page / MoPOP / Authentic Hendrix, LLC
NOAH - SS22 - JIMI HENDRIX - 02 © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

While many of the guitar legends of the era were influenced by Black American R&B and electric blues artists, he learned directly from them. He paid his dues in a string of clubs known as the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” places where it was safe for Black entertainers and artists to play in the Jim Crow South. While he worked for popular artists like Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, he wanted to be more than a sideman. And when he got his chance, he seized it with both hands and never let it go, becoming a sensation practically overnight. As popular as he became, he never stopped staying true to himself. As he defiantly put it - “I got my own world to look through, and I ain't gonna copy you…. I’m going to wave my freak flag high.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Purple Haze (Live In Atlanta, 1970)

It’s hard for us to believe that basically all of Jimi Hendrix’s music was recorded over just a four year span - from 1967 to his untimely passing in 1970. His work is so packed with ideas, we still hear new things every time we listen. Yet for all its depth, it’s easy for us to connect with it because his music feels grounded in something real. Hendrix sang of his personal struggles and frustrations - often involving love, but also about the society he lived in. In songs like “Up From the Skies” or “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be),” he decried war, ecological harm, and mass incarceration. Yet even then, he was always looking forward to the future - with his love for science fiction, he was an Afrofuturist at heart.

NOAH - SS22 - JIMI HENDRIX - 06 Günter Zint / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC.
NOAH - SS22 - JIMI HENDRIX - 07 Tony Gale / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Before he left us at the age of twenty-seven, Jimi Hendrix gave us one last gift - a recording studio in downtown New York City called Electric Lady. It was said to have been the only artist-owned studio at the time and its official opening was only a few weeks before his untimely passing. Since then, it’s hosted generations of legendary artists - including Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, the Clash, Patti Smith, David Bowie, the Soulquarians, and Jay-Z.

Which feels right to us. They’re a diverse group of artists that each remade music - reflecting the many ways in which we admire Jimi Hendrix and how his legacy seems to transcend time and place.

This season, NOAH is proud to present a capsule collection as our tribute to Jimi Hendrix and his uncompromising pursuit of his creative vision. Launching online 5/5.

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