It only took Jimi Hendrix four years to set the world on fire.
Considered by many as ‘Seattle’s Son’, Jimi Hendrix was born and raised in the Emerald City and with his virtuosic guitar playing soon became a superstar and rock legend.
In his brief time in the public eye from 1966–1970, he thrilled audiences with his wildly outrageous electric guitar playing, innovative, experimental sound, and unforgettable songwriting.
Fifty years ago, on 18 September 1970, his global fans were shocked and saddened when he passed away at the age of 27 in London from a drug-related complication. Today, we celebrate his life and the revolutionary contributions he made in rock music.
Growing up in Seattle’s Central District, he was a typical American kid who loved football, drawing, comic books, and television. But his overwhelming passion was music. Hendrix was an avid fan of blues and rock and roll. By age 15, he had his own electric guitar and taught himself to play. Before long, he was jamming with friends in neighbourhood garage bands. He progressed to playing local parties and all-ages dance clubs with groups such as the Velvetones, the Rocking Kings, and Thomas & His Tomcats.
Hendrix joined the US Army in 1961 and trained as a paratrooper, even then finding time to play music. He was honourably discharged a year later after an injury during a parachute jump. Following his service, Hendrix played as a session musician, working with Little Richard, B.B. King, Sam Cooke and the Isley Brothers playing gigs around the United States.
By the mid-1960s, he met Chas Chandler, from the British rock group the Animals, who became his manager and convinced him to go to London where he formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There he created a following, including rock greats like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Eric Clapton, who all admired his work.
In 1967, his band released their first single, Hey Joe, which became a smash hit in Britain and was followed by such hits as Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary. While touring, he thrilled audiences with his audacious guitar playing and won over American rock fans with his memorable performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 where he ended the show by lighting his guitar on fire and smashing it to bits.
At the legendary Woodstock festival in August 1969, Hendrix was the last performer of the three-day event, playing his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, wowing the crowds and making history yet again with his talent.
On February 12, 1968, Jimi Hendrix returned to his hometown of Seattle for the first time in seven years. Despite being announced one week prior, Hendrix’s concert sold out, a testament to the guitarist’s immense popularity and hometown appeal.
After Are You Experienced? shot up the Billboard charts in the autumn of 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience toured constantly, and he returned to Seattle a second time to perform at the Seattle Center Coliseum (currently Climate Pledge Arena) on 6 September 1968. He came back a third time for a concert at the Seattle Center Coliseum on 23 May 1969.
Jimi Hendrix’s final concert in Seattle occurred on 26 July 1970 at Sicks’ Stadium in Rainier Valley. It was raining and cold during the concert, which seemed to affect Hendrix’s mood.
According to journalist Janine Gressel, “Hendrix played well. The spark and fire of his music were there, dampened only slightly by the rain.”
The same venue in which Hendrix had seen Elvis play 13 years prior would prove to be his final Seattle performance.
Jimi Hendrix left an unforgettable mark on the world of rock music in just a few short years. As one journalist wrote in the Berkeley Tribe, “He could get more out of an electric guitar than anyone else. Jimi Hendrix was the ultimate guitar player.”
Hendrix fans can plan their own tour of sights and experiences dedicated to ‘Seattle’s Son’ when travel to the Emerald City returns, including an exhibit of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia at the Seattle MoPoP museum, ranging from clothing to ephemera and instruments, including the 1968 Stratocaster guitar he used at Woodstock in 1969.
Jimi Hendrix Park is located in the vibrant Central district, featuring a purple guitar, the star’s enlarged signature in graffiti and a new Shadow Wave Wall art installation featuring Jimi’s face, which was unveiled on what would have been the legend’s latest birthday, on 27 November 2019.
The Jimi Hendrix statue, located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district, is a not-to-be-missed photo opportunity with the star who is captured shredding his guitar on his knees. A 30-minute drive from here, at Greenwood Memorial Park, is Hendrix’s final resting place and memorial, a 30-foot high granite dome with columns trimmed in rainbow marble and a life-size bronze sculpture.
Seattle’s landscape has changed much since Jimi’s days but the city still celebrates his incredible contributions to the world of music.
To plan your next visit to the Pacific Northwest, check out the Port of Seattle’s Cruise and Stay Guide or visit our website seattlecruisealaska.co.uk.
Did you ever see Jimi Hendrix play? Would you like to visit Seattle some day?
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