Jimi Hendrix: 13 Black Artists Who Inspired Rock
Jimi Hendrix may be the best-known artist on our list. He is arguably the greatest electric guitar player of all time. Born left-handed, Jimi would play a right-handed Fender Stratocaster upside down. Before Jimi, other artists unsuccessfully experimented with feedback and distortion. Hendrix masters it making a fluid sound that could peak from his soul. He accomplished his sound using overdriven amps, a wah-wah pedal and ability to move from lead to rhythm guitar effortlessly. The greatest example of his control of distortion is when you listen to him play the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at his Woodstock performance. The guitar seems to make the sounds of the rockets bursting as his guitar sings within the distortion.
During his career, Jimi continues to innovate his sound while influencing both black and white performers. He could blend the blues, funk and psychedelic guitar with an uncanny mastery. Hendrix plays hard rock guitar riffs like in the song “Voodoo Child.” The song was named the greatest riff of all time by the UK publication the “Telegraph.” He could play beautiful, soulful ballads like “The Wind Called Mary” or the much-covered “Little Wings.”. There is also an overt sexuality found within his music. This is heard in the song “Foxy Lady.” Though he was not a fan of his own singing voice, others found it to be equally as inspiring as his guitar work.
Regardless of his immense talent, Hendrix found himself on the white side of the segregated music line. He was unable to cross over to a black audience. Hendrix felt that both blacks and whites misunderstood him and his music. Even Rolling Stone magazine called Jimi a “Psychedelic Superspade.” He believed his audience saw him as a black stereotype, being hypersexual and high all of the time. Sadly, at the time, many in the black community saw Jimi as an Uncle Tom. He sleeps with white women. He hangs out with and plays white music with white musicians. His audience is mainly white. During a concert in Harlem, Jimi wanted to reach out to the black community but had someone throw eggs at him, and the audience slowly dwindled away as he played. Hendrix only wanted to show the world that music is universal — that there is no white rock or black rock.
Jimi’s career ended tragically from asphyxiation during an accidental overdose. Regardless of race or prejudice, you must respect the music he left us. After his death, Jimi’s legacy has continued to grow. Today his music is once again reaching a young R&B audience. His music is being sampled by many respected artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Beastie Boys, Redman, Rick Ross and N.W.A. If there were a Mount Rushmore of Music, his profile would be there looking down at all colors who love his artistic mastery. He is much like a guitar-Jesus, a musical timeline should be divided into two pieces, guitar playing before Jimi Hendrix and after his legacy.
Jimi dying at 27 puts him in a tragic group of musical artist who died at the age of 27, in their prime. The group includes such legends as Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Amy Winehouse.