Black US rock guitarist and singer. He was one of the pop ‘superstars’ of the 1960s.
The son of a gardener, he was born in Seattle, Washington, his antecedents being part negro, part Cherokee Indian, and part Mexican. When he left the US army in 1963 he started touring the southern states as a backing musician for rhythm and blues stars. By 1966 he had formed his own band in New York called Jimmy James and his Blue Flames. Here he was heard by the British rock musician Chas Chandler, who urged him to come to London. Once in London he formed a trio called the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The group's first recording, ‘Hey Joe’, was number 6 in the British pop charts in 1967; it was followed by ‘Purple Haze’ and several other successes. The wild appearance of the group, their deafening amplification, and their ability to improvise made them a great success at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Back in the USA after his great success in Britain, a planned concert tour was banned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who regarded his performing antics as obscene. After a year's isolation, Hendrix formed another group, the Band of Gypsies, which performed at the Isle of Wight Festival and made a recording in 1970.
Hendrix was the first to explore the potential of the electric guitar as an electronic sound source. Admired by Miles Davis and Bob Dylan he had a profound effect on the pop music that came after him. He was building his own studio in New York when he died of an accidental overdose of barbiturates.