Jimi Hendrix: Biography, Songs & Facts

Instructor: Colleen Cleveland

Colleen has taught college level Game Development and Graphic Design and has a Master's in Interactive Entertainment and Masters in Media Psychology.

This lesson will investigate the saga of the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Within his short lifespan, he made a favorable impression on the music scene that led him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942. He was not always known as Jimi Hendrix. In 1946, his father renamed him from Johnny Allen Hendrix to James 'Jimmy' Marshall Hendrix. It wasn't until the Jimi Hendrix Experience formed that Hendrix changed the spelling of his name to 'Jimi.' At the age of 15, Hendrix picked up the acoustic guitar for the first time, which his father purchased for $5. Hendrix was influenced by the greats of the blues era, such as Muddy Waters and B.B. King.

Hendrix went on and formed his first band, the Velvetones. It was during that time that he found he couldn't be heard over the crowd and deemed it necessary to get an electric guitar instead. At the age of 19, Hendrix joined the Army, only to be released a year later. Once out of the Army, he took on the stage name Jimmy James and went on to perform as a backup musician with various acts, such as the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight & the Squires, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke.

It was in 1966 that his talents began to emerge as a frontman, and soon, a band was formed around him called the 'Jimi Hendrix Experience,' showcasing his talent for guitar and showmanship onstage. It was at the Monterey International Pop Festival where the stunt of Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire brought him national attention. By 1969 - the same year as Woodstock - Hendrix was the highest-paid musician in the world. Renowned for his rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner,' it became a landmark piece in defining Woodstock. Sadly, Hendrix had an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and on September 18, 1970, he died from an inhalation of vomit following an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 27. However, he left a lasting impact on rock and roll, blues, and jazz.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience


Three UK top ten hits from the Jimi Hendrix Experience were 'Purple Haze,' 'Hey Joe,' and 'The Wind Cries Mary.' The band's first album, Are You Experienced?, (1967) reached number two in the UK and spent eight months on the British charts. Hendrix's signature song at Woodstock was 'The Star Spangled Banner,' which posthumously received a Grammy. Finally, his album, Electric Ladyland (1968) reached number one on the Billboard charts.

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