5 Moments That Made Jimi Hendrix (Updated for May 2021)

Published on 12 May 2021

"You have to go on and be crazy, craziness is like heaven" 

On this day in 1967, Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience was released and went on to be regarded as one of the greatest debut albums in the history of rock music. This anniversary got us thinking about his careers greatest moments... 

No matter where your tastes lie, there's no denying the eccentric brilliance of Jimi Hendrix. An inspired player who saw beyond the electric guitar to a whole new world of sound, Hendrix was a visionary and his influence is still present all these years later. His rise to fame was an unlikely yet utterly brilliant one, leaving fans and fellow musicians alike stunned by not only his talent but his creativity and imagination. We thought we'd take a look at a few of the moments that made him such a special player and to be totally honest, there are so many to choose from. However, we've narrowed it down to these 5 which provide a pretty glorious snapshot of the greatest guitarist of all time. Check them out below:

Buddy & The Upsetters on Night Train, 1965

How does the most prolific, iconic and yeah we'll say it, important guitarist of all time rise to fame? Well, like most rockstars, from humble beginnings. Hendrix's early life was no easy ride, learning to play the guitar against his father's wishes, narrowly dodging jail and spending a short time in the military before his music sent him on a path that would change the world forever. However, he wasn't always the star of the show as you'll in this early TV performance in 1965. Backing up Buddy and Stacey, a young fresh-faced Hendrix takes his place in the band and even has the moves of the time down! A million miles away from the unscripted carnage of his later shows but a telling glimpse into what was to come, Hendrix played with several backing bands during this era including Little Richard. The relationship was short-lived though, as Richard promptly fired him for upstaging him, although this was disputed by his brother who claimed it was because Hendrix 'was always late for the bus and flirting with all the girls and stuff like that'... 

Monterey International Pop Music Festival, 1967

What a difference two years make huh? In what seems like a lifetime away from Hendrix's early grooving with the sax player, he torched his guitar the Monterey Internation Pop Festival in one of the most iconic and unforgettable moves of statesmanship the world has ever witnessed. This was apparently his second attempt at the move after the first guitar erupted into a ball of flames that burned both his and the roadie's hands, resulting in a trip to the hospital after the show. He'd nailed it for round two though, already well on his way to superstardom at this point, Hendrix soaks his Strat in lighter fluid kneels down and conjurs the flames to the fascination of an audience who have never seen anything like it before. Of course, it's only right that he then smashed it on the floor of the stage. This ladies and gents is what a rockstar looks like and Jimi wanted to make sure we'd never forget it!

Jimi Hendrix Experience on the Lulu Show, 1969

The next TV performance on our list isn't quiiite as conservative as the first and shows how Hendrix had flourished as a character during the 4 years between them. No matter what the plan was, Jimi did things the way he saw fit and this incredible clip supposedly saw him banned from performing on the BBC. After the sonic explosion of Vodoo Child and a solo played with his teeth, Hendrix and the band launched into Hey Joe. However, before host Lulu joined them as planned to sing the last few lines, the band cut it short and kicked off a juiced up, lightning-fast rendition of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love. The track may have been inspired by Hendrix's chaotically perfect playing but it seems the BBC didn't appreciate the stunt as they quickly wrapped up the show afterwards and pulled the band from air. 

The Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock, 1969

Come on, of course, this was going to be included. Who doesn't think of Woodstock when they think of iconic Hendrix moments!? This festival changed music forever and has cemented itself firmly in pop culture history with Hendrix at the helm. Playing at 9:00am to only 200,000 instead of the 500,000 who had been in attendance, Jimi took to the stage with a new band after the split of the Experience's, apparently following a truly terrible sounding sound check. It's safe to say that Jimi more than pulled things together as he launched into one of his most captivating and electrifying performances, which many still see as the perfect ending and summary of the free love era of the 60's. His rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner rightfully went down in history and he even treated the crowd to a rare encore, performing his first single Hey Joe in a move that shows how far the artist had come in only a matter of years. From young hopeful, to the king of the hippies, Jimi had made it. 

Hear My Train A Comin', 1970

Jimi's sound was electric, there are no two ways about it. The way he could manipulate the feedback and relationship with his amp and effects was utterly one of a kind and paved the way for pretty much every player who followed since, even making Clapton once leave his show to go home and practice. However, this rare acoustic clip shows off Jimi's versatility and is a testament to just how good he really was. Picking up an open-tuned 12 string at the filming just because he fancied trying it out, Jimi plucked and crooned this stunning blues piece and managed to make it every bit as captivating as his rowdy electric shows. With only 5 minutes of film left, this take was either going to be a disaster or something truly magical and Hendrix, as always, didn't disappoint. Played the year of his death, this is one of the last looks we have at Jimi's live performances and the direction which his music was heading. It may only be a glimpse, but it's a pretty special one. 

Final Thoughts

No matter which way you cut it, there'll never be another quite like Jimi. Paving the way for practically every guitarist who followed and inspiring his contemporaries, who we consider guitar heroes in their own right, Hendrix's short but prolific career was the perfect storm. Even with all of the guitar wizardry we've come accustomed to seeing, Jimi's now over 50-year-old live shows are unbelievable to set eyes on. A true wrecking ball of sound, there'll never be another like Jimi and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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