Jimi Hendrix

Music and Politics

Current events have the ability to impact the music industry in a meaningful way because music is a way that people, both artists and audience members, express themselves.

Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Album

[23]

In the chaotic year of 1968, an artist who used his voice to speak out against the tumult was Jimi Hendrix. He spoke out by not speaking out, in other words, he was political by being apolitical. Hendrix produced music that served a purpose, not so much as fuel to the political fire, but more so as a way for people to escape reality. In October of 1968, Hendrix released the album Electric Ladyland [1]. By November of that year, the album was ranked number one in the United States [2]. Electric Ladyland went on to earn a number ten ranking on Classic Rock magazine’s top one hundred rock albums of all time, as well as the number thirty-seven ranking on The Times’ ordering of the best one hundred albums ever [3][4]Electric Ladyland proved to be one of Hendrix’s greatest successes in the few years that he was active in the music industry [5]. His career was short-lived because he died in 1970 due to a supposed drug overdose [6]. He was only twenty-seven years old [6].

Electric Ladyland

According to Urban Dictionary, the term “Electric Ladyland” refers to “where one’s mind goes when under the influence of psychedelic drugs” [7]. Based on this definition, the title provides information as to what Hendrix aimed to accomplish with this album. The album is of the psychedelic rock genre, as it is intended to enhance the effects of psychedelic drugs when played during usage [8]. In this way, Jimi Hendrix’s music symbolized escape, newness, rebellion, and youth. To fully depict how Electric Ladyland was received when it was released, it is necessary to look at reviews from 1968. Tony Glover published a positive review in 1968 that questioned whether Hendrix should be viewed as a “psychedelic superspade” or “just a damn good musician/producer” [9]. He sings Hendrix’s praises throughout the review, referring to his music as “beautifully freaky sound” and “groovy tune[s]” [9]. Allan Holbert wrote a more negative review of Hendrix in 1968, as he explained that Hendrix sang and performed poorly, and that he seemed to have a lot of sex [10]. Furthermore, he described Hendrix’s appearance, specifically mentioning his long hair and floral attire [10]. Although one review is positive while the other is negative, they overlap in the way that they each connect Jimi Hendrix to hippie culture, by using terms such as psychedelic, groovy, long hair, floral, etc. The stark contrast between these two reviews demonstrates the controversial nature of Hendrix and his work back in 1968.

[24]

 

The top picture shows the original album cover that was released in the United Kingdom [11]. The bottom left image is the revised album cover that Jimi Hendrix’s American label chose to use [11]. The bottom right picture is what Hendrix wanted as the album cover [11]

 

 

The album cover released by his United Kingdom record label depicted nineteen naked women [12]. Retailers in Britain banned it from their stores, and Hendrix himself did not like it [12]. In response, Hendrix sent his record label in the United States a letter that included sketches of how he would like the cover to look [12]. These were rejected, and his American label instead decided to feature a red and yellow close-up of him as the album cover [12].

The National Anthem

It would be remiss to not mention exceptions to Hendrix’s apolitically political career. Hendrix explicitly stepped into the political arena with his performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1968 and beyond [13]. The way he performed the national anthem was much different than typical renditions. After the words “gleaming,” “stars,” and “fight,” the music sounded intensely dangerous, as if something was being destroyed [13]. Throughout the song, feedback from his guitar was prominent in the sounds heard by the audience [13]. He did not finish the anthem before he began performing “Purple Haze” [13].

[25]

Jimi Hendrix performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” multiple times. This video shows him performing the national anthem at Woodstock in 1969.

Remembering Jimi Hendrix

Although he passed over forty years ago, Jimi Hendrix remains an influential guitarist because he and his work are widely remembered in today’s society [14]. Memories of Jimi Hendrix and his work are still used in many ways today, and this is not just limited to 1968 memories. Memories of Jimi Hendrix and his work are partial, usable, and processual [15]. The memories are partial because his songs are featured in many movies, including Hit and Run, Wayne’s World, and Singles [16]. In these movies, Hendrix’s music is remembered, but the context and genuine meaning of the songs are forgotten. The memories are usable because his work paved the way for other musicians, he and his music represent an important time in history, and because his legacy has led to various events over the years. An “Experience Hendrix” tour began in 1995, and has now occurred twenty times [17]. The Monterey Pop festival in which Hendrix took part back in ’67 celebrated its 50th anniversary in the summer of 2017 [18]. Jimi Hendrix has made his way into college courses at various universities because he represents more than just himself [19][20][21]. The memories are processual because they are ongoing and ever-changing in the sense that certain aspects of Hendrix and his music are remembered and used, depending on what is convenient or most needed at the time of selection. Additionally, reactions to Hendrix and his work have changed with time. In the present day, Hendrix and his music are not as controversial as Tony Glover, Allan Holbert, and others considered it in 1968, which means distanciation is at play [22]. No matter how much it changes, how much of it is forgotten, or how it is used, the memory of Jimi Hendrix and his work will remain because it represents such an eventful time in history.

For more on music in 1968, please visit:

Aretha Franklin: Paying R-E-S-P-E-C-T to an American Icon

Johnny Cash: 1968 Performance and Album “At Folsom Prison”

John Sinclair, the Icon and the Man

The Band’s Debut Album “Music From Big Pink”

Kendall Williams

Works Cited

References

[1] edrivadaviayahoo-com. “The Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Classic ‘Electric Ladyland’.” Ultimate Classic Rock, 16 Sept. 2014, ultimateclassicrock.com/jimi-hendrix-experience-electric-ladyland/.

[2] “Today in Music History: The Jimi Hendrix Experience Went No. 1 with ‘Electric Ladyland’.” The Current, Minnesota Public Radio, 16 Nov. 2017, www.thecurrent.org/feature/2017/11/10/today-in-music-history-the-jimi-hendrix-experience-went-no-1-with-electric-ladyland.

[3] Parker, Steve. “Classic Rock Magazine.” Rocklist.net…Steve Parker…Classic Rock Lists…, 12 Feb. 2018, www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/steveparker/classicrock.htm.

[4] Manning, John. “The Times.” Rocklist.net…The Times All Time Top 100 Albums – 1993…, 14 Dec. 2015, www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/times100.htm.

[5] Unterberger, Richie. “Jimi Hendrix | Album Discography.” AllMusic, AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/artist/jimi-hendrix-mn0000354105/discography.

[6] “Jimi Hendrix: 1942-1970.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 15 Oct. 1970, www.rollingstone.com/music/news/jimi-hendrix-1942-1970-19701015.

[7] “Electric Ladyland.” Https://Www.urbandictionary.com, Urban Dictionary, 6 July 2009, www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Electric+Ladyland.

[8] Koda, Cub. “Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi Hendrix | Songs, Reviews, Credits.” AllMusic, AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/album/electric-ladyland-mw0000527658.

[9] Glover, Tony. “Electric Ladyland.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 9 Nov. 1968, www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/electric-ladyland-19681109.

[10] Welter, Ben. “Nov. 3, 1968: A Bad Jimi Hendrix Experience.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 11 Dec. 2017, www.startribune.com/nov-3-1968-a-bad-jimi-hendrix-experience/289716951/.

[11]“Electric Ladyland (Music).” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Music/ElectricLadyland.

[12] Wilkening, Matthew. “The Story of Jimi Hendrix’s Banned ‘Electric Ladyland’ LP Cover.” Ultimate Classic Rock, Ultimate Classic Rock, 12 Nov. 2015, ultimateclassicrock.com/jimi-hendrix-banned-cover/.

[13] Clague, Mark. “‘This Is America’: Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner Journey as Psychedelic Citizenship.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 1 Dec. 2014, www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-society-for-american-music/article/this-is-america-jimi-hendrixs-star-spangled-banner-journey-as-psychedelic-citizenship/0029FB312D1A8A9C61C0345C6DB59525/core-reader.

[14] Barnes, Tom. “44 Years Later, Jimi Hendrix Is Still the Most Influential Guitarist of All Time.” Mic, Mic Network Inc., 26 Oct. 2015, mic.com/articles/104162/jimi-hendrix-is-the-most-influential-guitar-player-to-ever-live#.NqQnlpyoe.

[15] Zelizer, Barbie. “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies.”Https://Sakai.unc.edu, sakai.unc.edu/access/content/group/24fe51d2-8267-40b5-8188-310ae1b1821a/Course%20Readings/Zelizer%2C%20Reading%20the%20Past%20Against%20the%20Grain.pdf.

[16] Kilroy, Jake. “10 Jimi Hendrix Songs That Made Films Better.” Consequence of Sound, Consequence of Sound , 12 May 2017, consequenceofsound.net/2017/05/10-jimi-hendrix-songs-that-made-films-better/.

[17]“History ∙ 2017 Experience Hendrix Tour.” Experience Hendrix Tour, Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., www.experiencehendrixtour.com/history.php.

[18] Sisario, Ben. “Monterey Pop, the Rock Festival That Sparked It All, Returns.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/arts/music/monterey-pop-festival-50th-anniversary.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FHendrix%2C%2BJimi&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=8&pgtype=collection.

[19] “Jimi Hendrix Lab.” Jimi Hendrix Lab | Berklee College of Music, Berklee College of Music, www.berklee.edu/courses/ilgt-347.

[20] http://blogs.honors.buffalo.edu/honorablemention/posts/summer-course-the-music-of-jimi-hendrix-online/

[21] “Bruce and Jimi.” The Evergreen State College, 22 Nov. 2017, evergreen.edu/catalog/offering/bruce-and-jimi-17528.

[22] Schudson, Michael. “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory.” Https://Sakai.unc.edu, sakai.unc.edu/access/content/group/24fe51d2-8267-40b5-8188-310ae1b1821a/Course%20Readings/Colonial%20Williamsburg%20and%20the%20Memory%20of%20Slavery/Schudson%20on%20Memory%20Distortion.pdf.

Images and Video

[23] Alper, Eric. “20 Of The Greatest Isolated Guitar Tracks From Jimi Hendrix.” That Eric Alper, That Eric Alper, 28 Mar. 2017, www.thatericalper.com/2017/03/28/20-of-the-greatest-isolated-guitar-tracks-from-jimi-hendrix/.

[24] “Electric Ladyland (Music).” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Music/ElectricLadyland.

[25] “Jimi Hendrix The Star Spangled Banner American Anthem Live at Woodstock 1969.” YouTube, YouTube, 18 Sept. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKAwPA14Ni4.

Author: Kendall Williams

Student Recreation Center

7 thoughts on “Jimi Hendrix”

  1. This Jimi Hendrix post was well written. I found the set up of the post to be very effective and to flow well. I think the most interesting point made was how one can be political by being apolitical. One improvement I would suggest is to add hyperlinks in the text to different sources used as a way to diversify the media used in the post.

  2. I agree that this post was both well-written and informative. I think that the section on “psychedelic rock” and the use of Hendrix’s music to escape the harsh reality of 1968 is very interesting as well as how he added a political statement in his performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” (I liked that you added a video of his rendition of the national anthem). I would suggest editing your works cited to MLA format and not just web addresses.

  3. I agree with the above post that I found it very interesting how you mentioned that he was political by being apolitical. I had never looked at the strategy in that type of way, but it is obviously very effective. The way you analyzed and remembered Jimi Hendrix was really mind-opening and allowed me to see a side of the artist that I had not previously seen. His name is so common in today’s world that it is almost hard to believe he passed away 40 years ago.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post about Jimi Hendrix. I knew that Hendrix was a very popular and prominent musician, but beyond on that I didn’t know much. It was interesting to see how his work was apolitical and how he was supported in his songs about being under the influence and doing drugs. I believe this reflects a lot on the time period and the Hippie movement because there was so much support for drug related activities. However, I did know about his performance of the National Anthem. I really don’t like the way it sounds but I feel like he wanted that sort of reaction and I respect him for having the confidence to do so.

  5. When looking at American memory, some artists become more legendary when they die. Jimi Hendrix died two years later in 1970. It’s interesting to consider what would have happened if he hadn’t died. If he was still alive, would he still be considered one of the most influential guitarists in American history? Jimi Hendrix’s national anthem performance remains iconic in today’s history and memory. Even today, national anthem performances are heavily analyzed and critiqued. It is interesting to see how controversial national anthem performances started over 50 years ago and continue on today.

  6. I didn’t know him before reading your article on Jimi Hendrix. I think you did a great job to give an clear presentation about who he is and what is his impact on history. I am also very impressed by the extensive sources you include for reference. Following the post above this, I think his death foretold the destined decline of hippies culture, as article “Counterculture in Literature: ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem'” in this website describes the negative influence it caused.

  7. I found this post incredibly intriguing. The use of Jimi Hendrix photographs and album covers does a good job in helping one to really visualize what he was like. I love the linked video of him performing the star spangled banner. Overall I think the writing in this post flows very well and it helps one to create an image of who Jimi Hendrix was and what he stood for.

Comments are closed.