Jimi Hendrix died aged twenty-seven on 18th September 1970 from asphyxia. He had been found unconscious and unresponsive after which paramedics took him to St Mary Abbot's Hospital in London, U.K. and he was pronounced dead there. Jimi had spent much of the day before in London with Monika Dannemann who said that she had prepared a meal for them at her apartment in the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill, at around 11 p.m., and they shared a bottle of wine. She then drove Jimi to the residence of an acquaintance at approximately 1:45 a.m., where he stayed for about one hour before she picked him up and drove them back to her flat at 3 a.m. Monika disclosed that they conversed until around 7 a.m then went to sleep. Monika awoke at aproximately eleven a.m., and found Jimi still breathing at that time but alarmed, she called for an ambulance.
To determine the cause of death, coroner Gavin Thurston ordered a post-mortem examination on Jimi's body, which was performed on September 21st by Professor Robert Donald Teare, a forensic pathologist. Thurston completed the inquest on September 28th and concluded that Jimi Hendrix aspirated his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates. Citing "insufficient evidence of the circumstances", he declared an open verdict. Monika later revealed that Jimi Hendrix had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping tablets.
After Jimi Hendrix's body had been embalmed by Desmond Henley, it was flown to Seattle, Washington, on September 29th 1970. After a service at Dunlop Baptist Church on October 1st it was interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, Washington, the location of his mother's gravesite. Jimi Hendrix's family and friends travelled in twenty-four limousines and more than two hundred people attended the funeral, including several notable musicians such as original Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, as well as Miles Davis, John Hammond, and Johnny Winter.
Jimi Hendrix, born November 27th 1942, was of African American descent. Both his mother Lucille and father Al were African Americans. His paternal grandmother, Zenora "Nora" Rose Moore, was African American and one-quarter Cherokee.
After returning from military service, Jimi's father reunited with Lucille, but his inability to find steady work left the family impoverished. They both struggled with alcohol, and often fought when intoxicated. The violence sometimes drove Jimi Hendrix to withdraw and hide in a closet in their home. His relationship with his brother Leon was close but precarious; with Leon in and out of foster care, they lived with an almost constant threat of fraternal separation. In addition to Leon, Jimi had three younger siblings: Joseph, Kathy, and Pamela,, all of whom Al and Lucille gave up to foster care and adoption. The family frequently moved, staying in cheap hotels and apartments around Seattle. On occasion, family members would take Jimi to Vancouver to stay at his grandmother's. A shy and sensitive boy, he was deeply affected by his life experiences. In later years, he confided to a girlfriend that he had been the victim of sexual abuse by a man in uniform. On December 17th 1951, when Jimi Hendrix was nine years old, his parents divorced; the court granted Al custody of him and Leon.
At Horace Mann Elementary School in Seattle during the mid-1950s, Jimi Hendrix's habit of carrying a broom with him to emulate a guitar gained the attention of the school's social worker. After more than a year of his clinging to a broom like a security blanket, she wrote a letter requesting school funding intended for underprivileged children, insisting that leaving him without a guitar might result in psychological damage.
In 1957, while helping his father with a side-job, Jimi Hendrix found a ukulele amongst the garbage that they were removing from an older woman's home. She told him that he could keep the instrument, which had only one string. Learning by ear, he played single notes, following along to Elvis Presley songs, particularly Presley's cover of Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog". By the age of thirty-three, Hendrix's mother Lucille had developed cirrhosis of the liver, and in February 1958, she died when her spleen ruptured. Al refused to take James and Leon to attend their mother's funeral; he instead gave them shots of whiskey and instructed them that was how men were supposed to deal with loss.
In mid-1958, at age fifteen, Jimi Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar, for $5. He earnestly applied himself, playing the instrument for several hours daily, watching others and getting tips from more experienced guitarists, and listening to blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. The first tune Jimi Hendrix learned how to play was "Peter Gunn", the theme from the television series of the same name.
Soon after he acquired the acoustic guitar, Jimi Hendrix formed his first band, the Velvetones. Without an electric guitar, he could barely be heard over the sound of the group. After about three months, he realized that he needed an electric guitar in order to continue. In mid-1959, his father relented and bought him a white Supro Ozark. Jimi Hendrix's first gig was with an unnamed band in the basement of a synagogue, Seattle's Temple De Hirsch, but after too much showing off, the band fired him between sets. He later joined the Rocking Kings, which played professionally at venues such as the Birdland club. When someone stole his guitar after he left it backstage overnight, his father bought him a red Silvertone Danelectro.
Before Jimi Hendrix was nineteen years old, law enforcement authorities had twice caught him riding in stolen cars. When given a choice between spending time in prison or joining the Army, he chose the latter and enlisted on May 31st 1961. After completing eight weeks of basic training at Fort Ord, California, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He arrived there on November 8, and soon afterward he wrote to his father: "There's nothing but physical training and harassment here for two weeks, then when you go to jump school ... you get hell. They work you to death, fussing and fighting." In his next letter home, Jimi Hendrix, who had left his guitar at his girlfriend Betty Jean Morgan's house in Seattle, asked his father to send it to him as soon as possible, stating: "I really need it now." ] His father obliged and sent the red Silvertone Danelectro on which Jimi Hendrix had hand-painted the words "Betty Jean" to Fort Campbell. His apparent obsession with the instrument contributed to his neglect of his duties, which led to verbal taunting and physical abuse from his peers, who at least once hid the guitar from him until he had begged for its return.
In November 1961, fellow serviceman Billy Cox walked past an army club and heard Jimi Hendrix playing guitar. Intrigued by the proficient playing, which he described as a combination of "John Lee Hooker and Beethoven", Cox borrowed a bass guitar and the two jammed. Within a few weeks, they began performing at base clubs on the weekends with other musicians in a loosely organized band called the Casuals.
Jimi Hendrix completed his paratrooper training in just over eight months, and Major General C. W. G. Rich awarded him the prestigious Screaming Eagles patch on January 11th, 1962. By February, his personal conduct had begun to draw criticism from his superiors. They labeled him an unqualified marksman and often caught him napping while on duty and failing to report for bed checks. On May 24th Jimi Hendrix's platoon sergeant, James C. Spears, filed a report in which he stated: "He has no interest whatsoever in the Army ... It is my opinion that Private Hendrix will never come up to the standards required of a soldier. I feel that the military service will benefit if he is discharged as soon as possible." On June 29th 1962, Captain Gilbert Batchman granted Jimi Hendrix an honorable discharge on the basis of unsuitability. Jimi Hendrix later spoke of his dislike of the army.
In September 1963, after Cox was discharged from the Army, he and Jimi Hendrix moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and formed a band called the King Kasuals. Jimi Hendrix had watched Butch Snipes play with his teeth in Seattle and by now Alphonso 'Baby Boo' Young, the other guitarist in the band, was performing this guitar gimmick. Not to be upstaged, Jimi Hendrix learned to play with his teeth. Although they began playing low-paying gigs at obscure venues, the band eventually moved to Nashville's Jefferson Street, which was the traditional heart of the city's black community and home to a thriving rhythm and blues music scene. They earned a brief residency playing at a popular venue in town, the Club del Morocco, and for the next two years Jimi Hendrix made a living performing at a circuit of venues throughout the South that were affiliated with the Theater Owners' Booking Association (TOBA), widely known as the Chitlin' Circuit. In addition to playing in his own band, Jimi Hendrix performed as a backing musician for various soul, R&B, and blues musicians, including Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson.
In January 1964, feeling he had outgrown the circuit artistically, and frustrated by having to follow the rules of bandleaders, Jimi Hendrix decided to venture out on his own. He moved into the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, where he befriended Lithofayne Pridgon, known as "Faye", who became his girlfriend. A Harlem native with connections throughout the area's music scene, Pridgon provided him with shelter, support, and encouragement. In February 1964, Jimi Hendrix won first prize in the Apollo Theater amateur contest. Hoping to secure a career opportunity, he played the Harlem club circuit and sat in with various bands. At the recommendation of a former associate of Joe Tex, Ronnie Isley granted Jimi Hendrix an audition that led to an offer to become the guitarist with the Isley Brothers' back-up band, the I.B. Specials, which he readily accepted.
In March 1964, Jimi Hendrix recorded the two-part single "Testify" with the Isley Brothers. In May, he provided guitar instrumentation for the Don Covay song, "Mercy Mercy". Issued in August by Rosemart Records and distributed by Atlantic, the track reached number 35 on the Billboard chart.
Jimi Hendrix toured with the Isleys during much of 1964, but near the end of October, after growing tired of playing the same set every night, he left the band. Soon afterward, Jimi Hendrix joined Little Richard's touring band, the Upsetters. During a stop in Los Angeles in February 1965, he recorded his first and only single with Richard, "I Don't Know What You Got (But It's Got Me)", written by Don Covay and released by Vee-Jay Records. Richard's popularity was waning at the time, and the single peaked at number 92, where it remained for one week before dropping off the chart. Jimi Hendrix met singer Rosa Lee Brooks while staying at the Wilcox Hotel in Hollywood, and she invited him to participate in a recording session for her single, which included the Arthur Lee penned "My Diary" as the A-side, and "Utee" as the B-side. Jimi Hendrix played guitar on both tracks, which also included background vocals by Lee. The single failed to chart, but Hendrix and Lee began a friendship that lasted several years; Jimi Hendrix later became an ardent supporter of Lee's band, Love.
In July 1965, on Nashville's Channel 5 Night Train, Jimi Hendrix made his first television appearance. Performing in Little Richard's ensemble band, he backed up vocalists Buddy and Stacy on "Shotgun". The video recording of the show marks the earliest known footage of Jimi Hendrix performing. Richard and Jimi Hendrix often clashed over tardiness, wardrobe, and Jimi Hendrix's stage antics, and in late July, Richard's brother Robert fired him. He then briefly rejoined the Isley Brothers, and recorded a second single with them, "Move Over and Let Me Dance" backed with "Have You Ever Been Disappointed". Later that year, he joined a New York-based R&B band, Curtis Knight and the Squires, after meeting Knight in the lobby of a hotel where both men were staying. Jimi Hendrix performed with them for eight months. In October 1965, he and Knight recorded the single, "How Would You Feel" backed with "Welcome Home" and on October 15th Jimi Hendrix signed a three-year recording contract with entrepreneur Ed Chalpin. While the relationship with Chalpin was short-lived, his contract remained in force, which later caused legal and career problems for Jimi Hendrix. During his time with Knight, Hendrix briefly toured with Joey Dee and the Starliters, and worked with King Curtis on several recordings including Ray Sharpe's two-part single, "Help Me". Jimi Hendrix earned his first composer credits for two instrumentals, "Hornets Nest" and "Knock Yourself Out", released as a Curtis Knight and the Squires single in 1966.
Feeling restricted by his experiences as an R&B sideman, Jimi Hendrix moved to New York City's Greenwich Village in 1966, which had a vibrant and diverse music scene. There, he was offered a residency at the Cafe Wha? on MacDougal Street and formed his own band that June, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, which included future Spirit guitarist Randy California. The Blue Flames played at several clubs in New York and Jimi Hendrix began developing his guitar style and material that he would soon use with the Experience. In September, they gave some of their last concerts at the Cafe au Go Go, as John Hammond Jr.'s backing group.
By May 1966, Jimi Hendrix was struggling to earn a living wage playing the R&B circuit, so he briefly rejoined Curtis Knight and the Squires for an engagement at one of New York City's most popular nightspots, the Cheetah Club. During a performance, Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, noticed Hendrix. She remembered: " His playing mesmerised me". She invited him to join her for a drink; he accepted and the two became friends.
While he was playing with Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Linda recommended Jimi Hendrix to Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and producer Seymour Stein. They failed to see Jimi Hendrix's musical potential, and rejected him. She then referred him to Chas Chandler, who was leaving the Animals and interested in managing and producing artists. Chandler saw the then-unknown Jimi Hendrix play in Cafe Wha?, a Greenwich Village, New York City nightclub. Chandler liked the Billy Roberts song "Hey Joe", and was convinced he could create a hit single with the right artist. Impressed with Jimi Hendrix's version of the song, he brought him to London in September 1966, and signed him to a management and production contract with himself and ex-Animals manager Michael Jeffery. On September 24th, Jimi Hendrix gave an impromptu solo performance at The Scotch of St James, and later that night he began a relationship with Kathy Etchingham that lasted for two and a half years.
Following Jimi Hendrix's arrival in London, Chandler began recruiting members for a band designed to highlight the guitarist's talents, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi Hendrix met guitarist Noel Redding at an audition for the New Animals, where Redding's knowledge of blues progressions impressed Hendrix, who stated that he also liked Redding's hairstyle. Chandler asked Redding if he wanted to play bass guitar in Hendrix's band; Redding agreed. Chandler then began looking for a drummer and soon after, he contacted Mitch Mitchell through a mutual friend. Mitchell, who had recently been fired from Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, participated in a rehearsal with Redding and Hendrix where they found common ground in their shared interest in rhythm and blues. When Chandler phoned Mitchell later that day to offer him the position, he readily accepted. Chandler also convinced Hendrix to change the spelling of his first name from Jimmy to the exotic looking Jimi.
On September 30th Chandler brought Jimi Hendrix to the London Polytechnic at Regent Street, where Cream was scheduled to perform, and where Hendrix and Eric Clapton met. Clapton later commented: "He asked if he could play a couple of numbers. I said, 'Of course', but I had a funny feeling about him." Halfway through Cream's set, Hendrix took the stage and performed a frantic version of the Howlin' Wolf song "Killing Floor". In 1989, Clapton described the performance: "He played just about every style you could think of, and not in a flashy way. I mean he did a few of his tricks, like playing with his teeth and behind his back, but it wasn't in an upstaging sense at all, and that was it ... He walked off, and my life was never the same again".
In mid-October 1966, Chandler arranged an engagement for the Experience as Johnny Hallyday's supporting act during a brief tour of France. Thus, the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed their very first show on October 13th 1966, at the Novelty in Evreux. Their enthusiastically received 15-minute performance at the Olympia theatre in Paris on October 18th marks the earliest known recording of the band. In late October, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, managers of the Who, signed the Experience to their newly formed label, Track Records, which released the Experience's first single on October 23rd; "Hey Joe", which included a female chorus provided by the Breakaways and was b-sided by Hendrix's first songwriting effort after arriving in England, "Stone Free".
In mid-November, they performed at the Bag O'Nails nightclub in London, with Clapton, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Kevin Ayers in attendance. The successful performance earned Hendrix his first interview, published in Record Mirror with the headline: "Mr. Phenomenon". "Now hear this ... we predict that Jimi Hendrix is going to whirl around the business like a tornado", wrote Bill Harry, who asked the rhetorical question: "Is that full, big, swinging sound really being created by only three people?" Jimi Hendrix commented: "We don't want to be classed in any category ... If it must have a tag, I'd like it to be called, 'Free Feeling'. It's a mixture of rock, freak-out, rave and blues". After appearances on the UK television shows Ready Steady Go! and the Top of the Pops, "Hey Joe" entered the UK charts on December 29th 1966, peaking at number six. Further success came in March 1967 with the UK number three hit "Purple Haze", and in May with "The Wind Cries Mary", which remained on the UK charts for eleven weeks, peaking at number six.
On March 31st 1967, while the Experience waited to perform at the London Astoria, Jimi Hendrix and Chandler discussed ways in which they could increase the band's media exposure. When Chandler asked journalist Keith Altham for advice, Altham suggested that they needed to do something more dramatic than the stage show of the Who, which involved the smashing of instruments. Hendrix joked: "Maybe I can smash up an something bigger", to which Altham replied: "Well, it's a pity you can't set fire to your guitar". Chandler then asked road manager Gerry Stickells to procure some lighter fluid. During the show, Jimi Hendrix gave an especially dynamic performance before setting his guitar on fire at the end of a 45-minute set.
After the moderate UK chart success of their first two singles, "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze", the Experience began assembling material for a full-length LP. Recording began at De Lane Lea Studios and later moved to the prestigious Olympic Studios. The album, 'Are You Experienced', features a diversity of musical styles, including blues tracks such as "Red House" and "Highway Chile", and the R&B song "Remember". It also included the experimental science fiction piece, "Third Stone from the Sun" and the post-modern soundscapes of the title track, with prominent backwards guitar and drums. "I Don't Live Today" served as a medium for Jimi Hendrix's guitar feedback improvisation and "Fire" was driven by Mitchell's drumming.
Released in the UK on May 12th 1967, Are You Experienced spent 33 weeks on the charts, peaking at number two. It was prevented from reaching the top spot by the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. On June 4th 1967, Jimi Hendrix opened a show at the Saville Theatre in London with his rendition of Sgt. Pepper's title track, which was released just three days previous. Beatles manager Brian Epstein owned the Saville at the time, and both George Harrison and Paul McCartney attended the performance. McCartney described the moment: "The curtains flew back and he came walking forward playing 'Sgt. Pepper'. It's a pretty major compliment in anyone's book. I put that down as one of the great honors of my career." Released in the U.S. on August 23rd by Reprise Records, 'Are You Experienced' reached number five on the Billboard 200.
In 1989, Noe Goldwasser, the founding editor of Guitar World magazine, described 'Are You Experienced' as "the album that shook the world ... leaving it forever changed". In 2005, Rolling Stone called the double-platinum LP Hendrix's "epochal debut", and they ranked it the 15th greatest album of all time, noting his "exploitation of amp howl", and characterizing his guitar playing as "incendiary ... historic in itself".
Although popular in Europe at the time, the Experience's first U.S. single, "Hey Joe", failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart upon its release on May 1st 1967. The group's fortunes improved when Paul McCartney recommended them to the organizers of the Monterey Pop Festival. He insisted that the event would be incomplete without Jimi Hendrix, whom he called "an absolute ace on the guitar", and he agreed to join the board of organizers on the condition that the Experience perform at the festival in mid-June.
Introduced by Brian Jones as "the most exciting performer he had ever heard", Jimi Hendrix opened with a fast arrangement of Howlin' Wolf's song "Killing Floor", wearing what author Keith Shadwick described as "clothes as exotic as any on display elsewhere." Shadwick wrote: "Jimi Hendrix was not only something utterly new musically, but an entirely original vision of what a black American entertainer should and could look like." The Experience went on to perform renditions of "Hey Joe", B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby", Chip Taylor's "Wild Thing", and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", as well as four original compositions: "Foxy Lady", "Can You See Me", "The Wind Cries Mary", and "Purple Haze". The set ended with Hendrix destroying his guitar and tossing pieces of it out to the audience. According to author Gail Buckland, the fourth and final frame of "Hendrix kneeling in front of his burning guitar, hands raised", is one of the most famous images in rock. The Los Angeles Times asserted that, upon leaving the stage, Jimi Hendrix "graduated from rumor to legend". Author John McDermott commented: "Jimi Hendrix left the Monterey audience stunned and in disbelief at what they'd just heard and seen." According to Hendrix: "I decided to destroy my guitar at the end of a song as a sacrifice. You sacrifice things you love. I love my guitar." The performance was filmed by D. A. Pennebaker, and later included in the concert documentary Monterey Pop, which helped Jimi Hendrix gain popularity with the U.S. public.
Immediately after the festival, the Jimi Hendrix Experience were booked for a series of five concerts at Bill Graham's Fillmore, with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane. The Experience outperformed Jefferson Airplane during the first two nights, and replaced them at the top of the bill on the fifth. Following their successful West Coast introduction, which included a free open-air concert at Golden Gate Park and a concert at the Whisky a Go Go, the Jimi Hendrix Experience were booked as the opening act for the first American tour of the Monkees. They requested Jimi Hendrix as a supporting act because they were fans, but their young audience disliked the Experience, who left the tour after six shows. Chandler later admitted that he engineered the tour in an effort to gain publicity for Jimi Hendrix.
The second Experience album, 'Axis: Bold as Love', opens with the track "EXP", which utilized microphonic and harmonic feedback in a new, creative fashion. It also showcased an experimental stereo panning effect in which sounds emanating from Jimi Hendrix's guitar move through the stereo image, revolving around the listener. The piece reflected his growing interest in science fiction and outer space. He composed the album's title track and finale around two verses and two choruses, during which he pairs emotions with personas, comparing them to colors. The song's coda features the first recording of stereo phasing. His guitar playing throughout the song is marked by chordal arpeggios and contrapuntal motion, with tremolo-picked partial chords providing the musical foundation for the chorus, which culminates in what musicologist Andy Aledort described as "simply one of the greatest electric guitar solos ever played". The track fades out on tremolo-picked thirty-second note double stops.
The scheduled release date for 'Axis' was almost delayed when Jimi Hendrix lost the master tape of side one of the LP, leaving it in the back seat of a London taxi. With the deadline looming, Jimi Hendrix, Chandler, and engineer Eddie Kramer remixed most of side one in a single overnight session, but they could not match the quality of the lost mix of "If 6 Was 9". Bassist Noel Redding had a tape recording of this mix, which had to be smoothed out with an iron as it had gotten wrinkled. During the verses, Jimi Hendrix doubled his singing with a guitar line which he played one octave lower than his vocals. Jimi Hendrix voiced his disappointment about having re-mixed the album so quickly, and he felt that it could have been better had they been given more time.
'Axis' featured psychedelic cover art that depicts Jimi Hendrix and the Experience as various forms of Vishnu, incorporating a painting of them by Roger Law, from a photo-portrait by Karl Ferris. The painting was then superimposed on a copy of a mass-produced religious poster. Jimi Hendrix stated that the cover, which Track spent $5,000 producing, would have been more appropriate had it highlighted his American Indian heritage. He commented: "You got it wrong ... I'm not that kind of Indian."Track released the album in the UK on December 1st 1967, where it peaked at number five, spending 16 weeks on the charts. In February 1968, 'Axis Bold as Love' reached number three in the U.S.A.
While author and journalist Richie Unterberger described 'Axis' as the least impressive Experience album, according to author Peter Doggett, the release "heralded a new subtlety in Jimi Hendrix's work". Mitchell commented: "Axis was the first time that it became apparent that Jimi was pretty good working behind the mixing board, as well as playing, and had some positive ideas of how he wanted things recorded.
Recording for the Experience's third and final studio album, 'Electric Ladyland' began at the newly opened Record Plant Studios, with Chandler as producer and engineers Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren. As the sessions progressed, Chandler became increasingly frustrated with Jimi Hendrix's perfectionism and his demands for repeated takes. Jimi Hendrix also allowed numerous friends and guests to join them in the studio, which contributed to a chaotic and crowded environment in the control room and led Chandler to sever his professional relationship with Jimi Hendrix. Noel Redding later recalled: "There were tons of people in the studio; you couldn't move. It was a party, not a session." Redding, who had formed his own band in mid-1968, Fat Mattress, found it increasingly difficult to fulfill his commitments with the Experience, so Jimi Hendrix played many of the bass parts on Electric Ladyland. The album's cover stated that it was "produced and directed by Jimi Hendrix".
During the Electric Ladyland recording sessions, Jimi Hendrix began experimenting with other combinations of musicians, including Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady and Traffic's Steve Winwood, who played bass and organ, respectively, on the fifteen-minute slow-blues jam, "Voodoo Chile". During the album's production, Jimi Hendrix appeared at an impromptu jam with B.B. King, Al Kooper, and Elvin Bishop. Electric Ladyland was released on October 25th and by mid-November it had reached number one in the U.S.A, spending two weeks at the top spot. The double LP was Jimi Hendrix's most commercially successful release and his only number one album. It peaked at number six in the UK, spending 12 weeks on the chart. Electric Ladyland included Jimi Hendrix's cover of Bob Dylan's song, "All Along the Watchtower", which became his highest-selling single and his only U.S. top 40 hit, peaking at number 20; the single reached number five in the UK. "Burning of the Midnight Lamp", which was his first recorded song to feature the use of a wah-wah pedal, was added to the album. It was originally released as his fourth single in the UK in August 1967 and reached number eighteen in the charts.
In 1989, Noe Goldwasser, the founding editor of Guitar World magazine, described 'Electric Ladyland' as "Jimi Hendrix's masterpiece". According to author Michael Heatley, "most critics agree" that the album is "the fullest realization of Jimi's far-reaching ambitions." In 2004, author Peter Doggett commented: "For pure experimental genius, melodic flair, conceptual vision and instrumental brilliance, Electric Ladyland remains a prime contender for the status of rock's greatest album." Doggett described the LP as "a display of musical virtuosity never surpassed by any rock musician."
In January 1969, after an absence of more than six months, Jimi Hendrix briefly moved back into his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham's Brook Street apartment, which was next door to the Handel House Museum in the West End of London. During this time, the Experience toured Scandinavia, Germany, and gave their final two performances in France. In February they played sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall, which were the last European appearances of this line-up.
Noel Redding had grown weary of Jimi Hendrix's unpredictable work ethic and his creative control over the Experience's music. During the previous month's European tour, interpersonal relations within the group had deteriorated, particularly between Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding. In his diary, Redding documented the building frustration during early 1969 recording sessions: "On the first day, as I nearly expected, there was nothing doing ... On the second it was no show at all. I went to the pub for three hours, came back, and it was still ages before Jimi ambled in. Then we argued ... On the last day, I just watched it happen for a while, and then went back to my flat." The last Experience sessions that included Redding—a re-recording of "Stone Free" for use as a possible single release—took place on April 14th at Olmstead and the Record Plant in New York. Jimi Hendrix then flew bassist Billy Cox to New York; they started recording and rehearsing together in April.
The last performance of the original Experience line-up took place on June 29th, 1969, at Barry Fey's Denver Pop Festival, a three-day event held at Denver's Mile High Stadium that was marked by police using tear gas to control the audience. The band narrowly escaped from the venue in the back of a rental truck, which was partly crushed by fans who had climbed on top of the vehicle. Before the show, a journalist angered Redding by asking why he was there; the reporter then informed him that two weeks earlier Jimi Hendrix announced that he had been replaced with Billy Cox. The next day, Redding quit the Experience and returned to London. He announced that he had left the band and intended to pursue a solo career, blaming Jimi Hendrix's plans to expand the group without allowing for his input as a primary reason for leaving.
Soon after Noel Redding's departure, Jimi Hendrix began lodging at the eight-bedroom Ashokan House, in the hamlet of Boiceville near Woodstock in upstate New York, where he had spent some time vacationing in mid-1969. Manager Michael Jeffery arranged the accommodations in the hope that the respite might encourage Jimi Hendrix to write material for a new album. During this time, Mitchell was unavailable for commitments made by Jeffery, which included Jimi Hendrix's first appearance on U.S. TV—on The Dick Cavett Show—where he was backed by the studio orchestra, and an appearance on The Tonight Show where he appeared with Cox and session drummer Ed Shaughnessy.
By 1969, Jimi Hendrix was the world's highest-paid rock musician. In August, he headlined the Woodstock Music and Art Fair that included many of the most popular bands of the time. For the concert, he added rhythm guitarist Larry Lee and conga players Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez. The band rehearsed for less than two weeks before the performance, and according to Mitchell, they never connected musically. Before arriving at the engagement, Jimi Hendrix heard reports that the size of the audience had grown to epic proportions, which gave him cause for concern as he did not enjoy performing for large crowds. He was an important draw for the event, and although he accepted substantially less money for the appearance than his usual fee, he was the festival's highest-paid performer. As his scheduled time slot of midnight on Sunday drew closer, he indicated that he preferred to wait and close the show in the morning; the band took the stage around 8:00 a.m. on Monday. By the time of their set, Jimi Hendrix had been awake for more than three days. The audience, which peaked at an estimated 400,000 people, was now reduced to 30–40,000, many of whom had waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving during his performance. The festival MC, Chip Monck, introduced the group as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but Hendrix clarified: "We decided to change the whole thing around and call it Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. For short, it's nothin' but a Band of Gypsys".
Hendrix's performance featured a rendition of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", during which he used copious amounts of amplifier feedback, distortion, and sustain to replicate the sounds made by rockets and bombs. Although contemporary political pundits described his interpretation as a statement against the Vietnam War, three weeks later Jimi Hendrix explained its meaning: "We're all Americans ... it was like 'Go America!'... We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, see". Immortalized in the 1970 documentary film, Woodstock, his guitar-driven version would become part of the sixties Zeitgeist. Pop critic Al Aronowitz of the New York Post wrote: "It was the most electrifying moment of Woodstock, and it was probably the single greatest moment of the sixties." Images of the performance showing Hendrix wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe, a red head-scarf, and blue jeans are widely regarded as iconic pictures that capture a defining moment of the era. He played "Hey Joe" during the encore, concluding the 3½-day festival. Upon leaving the stage, he collapsed from exhaustion. In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock at number one in their list of his 100 greatest performances.
A legal dispute arose in 1966 regarding a record contract that Jimi Hendrix had entered into the previous year with producer Ed Chalpin. After two years of litigation, the parties agreed to a resolution that granted Chalpin the distribution rights to an album of original Hendrix material. Jimi Hendrix decided that they would record the LP, Band of Gypsys, during two live appearances. In preparation for the shows he formed an all-black power-trio with Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, formerly with Wilson Pickett, the Electric Flag, and the Buddy Miles Express. Critic John Rockwell described Hendrix and Miles as jazz-rock fusionists, and their collaboration as pioneering. Others identified a funk and soul influence in their music. Concert promoter Bill Graham called the shows "the most brilliant, emotional display of virtuoso electric guitar" that he had ever heard. Biographers have speculated that Jimi Hendrix formed the band in an effort to appease members of the Black Power movement and others in the black communities who called for him to use his fame to speak-up for civil rights.
Jimi Hendrix had been recording with Cox since April and jamming with Miles since September, and the trio wrote and rehearsed material which they performed at a series of four shows over two nights on December 31st and January 1st, at the Fillmore East. They used recordings of these concerts to assemble the album which was produced by Jimi Hendrix. ] The album includes the track "Machine Gun", which musicologist Andy Aledort described as the pinnacle of Jimi Hendrix's career. In this performance, Jimi transcended the medium of rock music, and set an entirely new standard for the potential of electric guitar. During the song's extended instrumental breaks, Jimi Hendrix created sounds with his guitar that sonically represented warfare, including rockets, bombs, and diving planes.
The Band of Gypsys album was the only official live Hendrix LP made commercially available during his lifetime; several tracks from the Woodstock and Monterey shows were released later that year. The album was released in April 1970 by Capitol Records; it reached the top ten in both the U.S. and the UK. That same month a single was issued with "Stepping Stone" as the A-side and "Izabella" as the B-side, but Jimi Hendrix was dissatisfied with the quality of the mastering and he demanded that it be withdrawn and re-mixed, preventing the songs from charting and resulting in his least successful single; it was also his last.
On January 28, 1970, a third and final Band of Gypsys appearance took place; they performed during a music festival at Madison Square Garden benefiting the anti-Vietnam War Moratorium Committee titled the "Winter Festival for Peace". American blues guitarist Johnny Winter was backstage before the concert; he recalled: "Jimi came in with his head down, sat on the couch alone, and put his head in his hands ... He didn't move until it was time for the show." Minutes after taking the stage he snapped a vulgar response at a woman who had shouted a request for "Foxy Lady". He then began playing "Earth Blues" before telling the audience: "That's what happens when earth fucks with space". Moments later, he briefly sat down on the drum riser before leaving the stage. Both Miles and Redding later stated that Jeffery had given Jimi Hendrix LSD before the performance. Miles believed that Jeffery gave Jimi the drugs in an effort to sabotage the current band and bring about the return of the original Experience lineup. Jeffery fired Miles after the show and Cox quit, ending the Band of Gypsys.
Soon after the abruptly ended Band of Gypsys performance and their subsequent dissolution, Jeffery made arrangements to reunite the original Experience line-up. Although Jimi Hendrix, Mitchell, and Redding were interviewed by Rolling Stone in February 1970 as a united group, Jimi never intended to work with Redding. When Redding returned to New York in anticipation of rehearsals with a re-formed Experience, he was told that he had been replaced with Cox. During an interview with Rolling Stone's Keith Altham, Jimi Hendrix defended the decision: "It's nothing personal against Noel, but we finished what we were doing with the Experience and Billy's style of playing suits the new group better." Although the lineup of Jimi Hendrix, Mitchell, and Cox became known as the Cry of Love band, after their accompanying tour, billing, advertisements, and tickets were printed with the 'New Jimi Hendrix Experience' or occasionally just Jimi Hendrix.
During the first half of 1970, Jimi Hendrix sporadically worked on material for what would have been his next LP. Many of the tracks were posthumously released in 1971 as The Cry of Love. He had started writing songs for the album in 1968, but in April 1970 he told Keith Altham that the project had been abandoned. Soon afterward, he and his band took a break from recording and began the Cry of Love tour at the L.A. Forum, performing for 20,000 people. Set-lists during the tour included numerous Experience tracks as well as a selection of newer material. Several shows were recorded, and they produced some of Jimi Hendrix's most memorable live performances. On July 17th they appeared at the New York Pop Festival. The American leg of the tour, which included 32 performances, ended at Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 1st 1970. This was Jimi Hendrix's final concert appearance in the U.S.A.
In 1968, Jimi Hendrix and Jeffery jointly invested in the purchase of the Generation Club in Greenwich Village. They had initially planned to reopen the establishment, but after an audit revealed that Jimi had incurred exorbitant fees by block-booking lengthy sessions at peak rates they decided that the building would better serve them as a recording studio. With a facility of his own, Jimi Hendrix could work as much as he wanted while also reducing his recording expenditures, which had reached a reported $300,000 annually. Architect and acoustician John Storyk designed Electric Lady Studios for Jimi Hendrix, who requested that they avoid right angles where possible. With round windows, an ambient lighting machine, and a psychedelic mural, Storyk wanted the studio to have a relaxing environment that would encourage Jimi Hendrix's creativity. The project took twice as long as planned and cost twice as much as Jimi Hendrix and Jeffery had budgeted, with their total investment estimated at $1 million.
Jimi Hendrix first used Electric Lady on June 15th 1970, when he jammed with Steve Winwood and Chris Wood of Traffic; the next day, he recorded his first track there, "Night Bird Flying". The studio officially opened for business on August 25th and a grand opening party was held the following day. Immediately afterwards, Jimi Hendrix left for England; he never returned to the U.S.A. He boarded an Air India flight for London with Cox, joining Mitchell for a performance as the headlining act of the Isle of Wight Festival.
When the European leg of the 'Cry of Love' tour began, Jimi Hendrix was longing for his new studio and creative outlet, and was not eager to fulfill the commitment. On September 2nd 1970, he abandoned a performance in Aarhus after three songs, stating: "I've been dead a long time". Four days later, he gave his final concert appearance, at the Isle of Fehmarn Festival in Germany. He was met with booing and jeering from fans in response to his cancellation of a show slated for the end of the previous night's bill due to torrential rain and risk of electrocution. Immediately following the festival, Hendrix, Mitchell, and Cox travelled to London.
Three days after the performance, Cox, who was suffering from severe paranoia after either taking LSD or being given it unknowingly, quit the tour and went to stay with his parents in Pennsylvania. Within days of Jimi Hendrix's arrival in England, he had spoken with Chas Chandler, Alan Douglas, and others about leaving his manager, Michael Jeffery. On September 16th Jimi Hendrix performed in public for the last time during an informal jam at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho with Eric Burdon and his latest band, War. They began by playing a few of their recent hits, and after a brief intermission Jimi Hendrix joined them during "Mother Earth" and "Tobacco Road". His performance was uncharacteristically subdued; he quietly played backing guitar, and refrained from the histrionics that people had come to expect from him. He died less than 48 hours later.