In June 1967, Jimi Hendrix returned to his native country and transformed the cultural, musical and fashion landscapes. Punctuated by Hendrix lighting his instrument on fire, the U.S. debut performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival propelled the guitarist to the top ranks of international rock royalty. Part of the Coda Groundbreakers Theme.
Every time you look at it, the timeline seems impossible. When Jimi Hendrix played the Monterey Pop Festival, he had already left his hometown of Seattle; trained as a paratrooper and been discharged from the military; moved to Nashville to hustle on the local R&B circuit; backed up giants like Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett and Jackie Wilson; toured as part of the Isley Brothers’ band and Little Richard’s backing group; moved to New York City, where he won Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater and put his first band together; been spotted by Chas Chandler of the Animals, who moved him to London and put him together with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience; blown the minds of British rock royalty including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton; and recorded his debut album, “Are You Experienced,” which reached No. 2 on the U.K. charts.
In countless ways, a band or vocal group is like a family. Sometimes these artistic fraternities involve actual family members, and then the process of making music becomes really personal. Such relationships can underpin levels of intimacy and communication that elevate the songs. They can also lead to the kind of squabbles that tear bands apart. Either way, family bands provide a fascinating window into the ups and downs of musical collaboration.
It’s fascinating to watch great artists evolve over long and prolific careers. But what of the artists who die young? When the greats don’t live long enough to see their 50th birthday, let alone their 40th or 30th, we all feel the loss. Whether it’s John Lennon, John Coltrane, Jeff Buckley or countless other talents who died prematurely, it’s not just their families and friends who mourn the loss, but the world.