Morning Music: Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix - Electric LadylandWhen it comes to guitar sound, Jimi Hendrix is more or less the alpha and omega. Oh yeah, I know that there have been other guitarists who have built a whole lot on what he did. But he’s the guy who really started us on this path where the guitar was something more than just a musical instrument. It probably isn’t a coincidence that he came around at the same time that the Moog really started to enter popular music.

What is there to say about Jimi Hendrix? Really, there isn’t much that I can add. I do think that people tend to forget just how experimental those first few albums were. They are amazing. And I can only imagine what they must have sounded like at the time. When I was introduced to them when I first went to college, they blew me away and I had grown up listening to plenty of people who were ripping him off to one degree or another.

I’d like to highlight something that doesn’t exactly speak to the full complexity of his work, “All Along The Watchtower,” off his third album, Electric Ladyland. It is, of course, a Bob Dylan tune. But Hendrix makes it so much more. And it shows that he could play a straight rock guitar solo as well as anyone. It also shows his absolute mastery of the wah-wah pedal. You don’t much hear that kind of total control of an instrument ever. It’s almost like listening to the very best classical music. And I fully expect that it will still be admired in hundreds of years.

2 thoughts on “Morning Music: Jimi Hendrix

  1. Dylan’s been clear — he considers Hendrix’s version far superior to his own.

    This was the song that introduced me to Hendrix, and I basically listened to nobody else for a year.

    What separates Hendrix from lesser guitarists, and here I’ll have to part ways with the nerds I love who write guitar blogs, isn’t his chops. Yes, he could do anything with his instrument. So could Eddie Van Halen. Hendrix used his guitar mastery to record “House Burning Down” and “Manic Depression.” Van Halen used his skills to write Van Halen songs.

    It’s like Clapton, the Stones, and the blues. Both Clapton and the Stones began their careers as blues ripoffs. Clapton is a vastly more skilled guitarist than Keith Richards. And somehow Keith Richards made some of the greatest music ever, which stole from blues while doing something new. I can’t think of a good Clapton song. Not without feeling bad for George Harrison.

    Technical mastery is one thing and a beautiful ear is another. Hendrix had such an ear, he could hear the difference between good and bad when he was whacked out of his mind. What an artist.

    • You’ve opened up a can of worms that I just don’t have the time to go into. Clapton is okay, but there is something a bit too intellectual about his style. Although I will say that his guitar playing is fantastic on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. I’ve always found Eddie Van Halen fairly soulless, although he’s certainly as good as any guitarist of that style. Keith Richards? That’s an interesting one. I don’t much think of him as a guitarist; he is just Keith Richards. He’s kind of like Chuck Berry — but not as flashy. I do wish people would stop talking about how terrible he looks. It’s not the drugs. He was ugly at 17. And he’s going to outlive most of his critics.

      You’re right about Hendrix. But he was the guy who showed that the wah-wah pedal could revolutionize music. And he had unbelievable chops, but that wasn’t what was most important about him.

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