Rikki Dee Hall plays guitar and sings for the Colorado Springs-based Voodoo Hawks, so when he was asked if he would like to do discuss Jimi Hendrix, he repled, “Oh. You want to talk about religion.”
The late and great Hendrix would have been 70 years old on Tuesday, but don’t suggest that he’s dead, because he is heard on the radio and iPods every day. Beyond that, there are young guitarists everywhere whose style has been influenced, even if unconsciously, by Jimi Hendrix.
Recalling the first time he saw Hendrix on stage (touring with, of all bands, The Monkees), Hall said, :”The day I saw Hendrix, that’s the day I said I wanted to play guitar. He was amazing. It wasn’t just the notes he played, it was the emotion he played with.”
Hendrix’s meteoric career was over when he died in 1970 because of a drug and alcohol overdose. Latter-day puritans may dismiss Hendrix because of the way he died; others just thought his music — then and now — was too far out there.
Why celebrate Hendrix?
“At this point he’s so iconic, young players have heard their heroes talk about him,” said Vicky Gergor, music director for KRCC radio. “High school kids, he’s on their radar. It’s a point of pride to look at your kids and you have music on that resonates with them.”
Gregor recalled Hendrix “playing with his teeth or behind his back and lighting his guitar on fire, that idea that you could explore. He wore that psychedelic heart and he wore it well.”
When Hendrix burst on the scene, no one had heard electric guitar sound the way he played it. His importance to the instrument is akin to what Miles Davis did with the trumpet, Benny Goodman on clarinet or Toots Thielemans did with the harmonica.
It’s common for Hendrix fans to claim that his guitar work was so far ahead of his time that it overshadowed the poetry that sometimes appeared in his lyrics. Colorado springs City Council liaison Aimee Cox’s favorite Hendrix tune is “Castles Made of Sand,” a touching and sad piece:
“Down the street you can hear her scream ‘you’re a disgrace’
As she slams the door in his drunken face
And now he stands outside
And all the neighbors start to gossip and drool.”
Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder has a wall hanging in his office with the famous quote often attributed to Hendrix, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
Hendrix “opened up a lot of minds about what is possible on guitar,” Snyder said.
When Rolling Stone magazine ranked Hendrix as the sixth-greatest musical artists of all time, singer-songwriter John Mayer wrote: “Every musician passes through Hendrix International Airport eventually. He is the common denominator of every style of popular music.”
John Hooton, who runs Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, loves a lot of the oldies, including Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, but said, “I can’t remember anyone in the last 40 years who was as creative...He made me think and feel more about music. You could tell he was in a different place when he picked up his guitar.”
Hendrix was 27 when he died. Many fans think that if had lived longer his music would have evolved in interesting ways, but of course we’ll never know.
Maybe there was no way such a shooting star could remain here for decades.
So happy birthday, Jimi. Long may your freak flag fly.
Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at 719-636-0363 or firstname.lastname@example.org