If I think back hard enough, there was music in my life before Jimi Hendrix.
For example, one of my more defining albums when I was in middle school was Sixteen Stone by Bush, and I definitely had that CD. I was in middle school though, which meant I had to ask my parents to buy the music, as I had no money at the time.
By the time I was 14-15, I was working part-time jobs mowing yards and shoveling driveways to get that extra spending money. There’s a sort of autonomy you gain when you’re able to buy your own music, your own books, your own video games, and so on. It’s the first step toward being an independent adult, outside of anyone’s supervision.
Jimi Hendrix wasn’t exactly controversial in my household. Not like when I purchased a Limp Bizkit album around the same time. While Fred Durst spoke to my life of teenage rebellion at the time, Jimi Hendrix spoke to my lifelong soul.
The first album I ever remember purchasing was Experience Hendrix, which came out in 1997 in CD format. I remember buying this because I played the hell out of that album. I had already heard a few Hendrix songs. “Purple Haze” was popular. “VooDoo Child” was being used as Hulk Hogan’s theme music in the WCW at the time. Anyone who watched Wayne’s World knew “Foxey Lady.”
The entire album stood out to me for the song writing, and the unmatched guitar. The song “Red House” is still, to this day, my favorite Hendrix song — even if it doesn’t have the same commercial appeal as some of his bigger hits. The overall blues vibe became one of my favorites, even though not many current artists were replicating the style.
Jimi Hendrix shaped my music listening for the rest of my life. Without this album, I wouldn’t have been as huge of a John Mayer fan. Mayer’s Continuum is a defining album in my life, and my first big interest in it came with the cover of Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”. Mayer followed with his own blues work after this on the album Try! and many others followed this trend around the same time.
Today, one of my favorite artists and guitar players is Gary Clark Jr., primarily due to how much he sounds like Hendrix. I love a song with a long guitar solo, in part because of Hendrix and in part because my dad listened to Led Zeppelin a lot growing up.
What still amazes me to this day is that Hendrix was only big for about four years, before tragically overdosing on sleeping pills.
I wouldn’t learn this trend until much later in life, but Hendrix was the first example of me being drawn to highly talented musicians who died way too young from drugs or depression.
Hendrix inspired nearly every modern musician that followed him, which is amazing how much of an impact he had in just a short amount of time. Even more amazing is that this impact came on the tail of the Civil Rights acts in 1964 and 1965. Despite those acts, there was still civil unrest for black people in the time Hendrix was big, including the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
A year prior to that event, Hendrix released the song “If 6 Was 9”, in which he had the line:
Flashing down the street
Pointing their plastic finger at me
They’re hoping soon, my kind will drop and die
But I’m going to wave
My freak flag high, high ow!
That song goes on to reveal that those white-collared conservatives weren’t objecting to Hendrix because he was black, specifically. It was because he was different. Those same people treated everyone the same if they were different. And honestly, I haven’t seen much difference in my lifetime, speaking as one of the white people that white-collared conservatives have looked down upon.
Perhaps that’s why Hendrix was so huge. He was a black artist, in a time when it was extremely difficult to be a black artist. He spoke of being an outcast, not because he was black, but because he was different from the people who think they control the world and how everyone inside it should be. That type of message transcends race, and speaks to the real issue in this society still today — one that disproportionately attacks race, while still not being specifically about race. It’s attacking people who embrace their differences.
Perhaps that’s why Hendrix was so influential to so many artists who followed. He was speaking for black people. But, he was also speaking for all of us who were different. When we all unite under that message, we see why those “white-collar conservatives” are so afraid.
They’re heavily outnumbered.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Song of the Day
This Week on First Pitch
MONDAY: The Pittsburgh Bob Nuttings
TUESDAY: Nice Week on Pirates Prospects
WEDNESDAY: Pirates Prospects Updates
FRIDAY: Willie Stargell
SATURDAY: Jimi Hendrix