Today marks the 44th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. He left this world when he was just 27. Thanks to my good friend Derrick Baldwin for reminding me of this. Derrick is one helluva keyboardist and I love it when his band gets him to sing.
Some people think you’re pathetic if you gush even just a smidge about Jimi. Those people don’t know shit and probably think people on “America’s Got Talent” are artists to follow for life. There’s more to art, though, than standing on stage and having yourself electrified into people’s homes.
Watch the video below and listen to what Jimi says about practicing. What separates art from entertainment is the idea of trying to create something new. “I’m constantly trying to create other things. That’s why I make so many mistakes.”
The very idea of creativity is bound up in the idea of “new things.” It’s a strange and spooky problem that artists have (whether painter, poet, musician, playwright, composer, novelist, etc.). You don’t choose to be that kind of person. You just are — even if you make mistakes or kind of blunder through your work.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re creating something that’s never ever been conceived of, or if you’re a blues musician and you’re doing your interpretation of a well-known song. Hendrix was both of those, of course.
It all began and ended with “Hey Joe” for Jimi. I remember the first time I heard him play that insanely simple ditty. I couldn’t believe how straight-forward and obvious the melody was, but how expressive and ethereal his whole presentation was — especially that voice! I was 14. He’d been dead for two years. I remember at the time feeling like this was the first link in the chain of what made him who he was. Sure enough…listen to Chas Chandler on the subject (with a little bit of Jeff Beck thrown in at the end):
Baseball players get walk-up songs when they come to bat. It wouldn’t surprise me that the Great Spirit of the Universe led Jimi into that next world he talked about with some rowdy and over-the-top walk-off version of “Hey Joe.”
If you’re a budding artist, studying the effect that Jimi had on those he came into contact with is worth the time. Understanding the need to stay true to yourself, being wild, upfront, humble, and real is the key to moving not just your work forward, but the whole world.