Wednesday. October 16th.1968. Mexico City. Mid-morning. US sprinter Tommie Smith won an Olympic gold medal for his then-world-record setting run of 19.83 in the 200 meter race. US sprinter John Carlos, Smith’s classmate and teammate at San Jose State University, placed third at 20.10 seconds. Both sprinters raised a black-leather-glove-covered fist as a Power to the People salute. The 60’s protested like this.
Later that same morning of 10/16/68, a 25-year-old Jimi Hendrix would release his third and final studio album, the sole #1 album of his career – “Electric Ladyland”. The 60’s sounded like this.
Tupac Shakur was born 20 months later, to the day, on June 16, 1971. The 60’s beget child rebel soldiers like this.
The Vietman Conflict would not cease fire, despite widespread global anti-war protest, for another 7 years. The 60’s lived to die at war like this.
35 years later, Rolling Stone magazine would name Hendrix the #1 guitarist of All-Time on a list of 100. The 21st Century still pays homage to the 60’s like this.
His music can possibly be defined as guitar string motivated, hypnotically performed, sonically choreographed poetry as colorful in phrase and focus as its pro-creator, Hendrix. Studied across genres: from his art-imitates-lifestyle to his demanding creative control over his magnum opus Electric Ladyland to his request to select his own album cover art to his global pop appeal, Hendrix inspired Frank Zappa, Rick James, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Carlos Santana and many other greats.
Hendrix was, all at once and in a monumental hurry, James Dean; on stage, off screen and equally as iconic to his own generation. Hendrix was, at times and when so moved, Langston Hughes in song and sequential explanation of how the movement appeared Live! Hendrix remains, to most anyone you pose the inquiry, a vastly important figure in populist culture.
What is the legend of Jimi Hendrix? Is he the most visible, creatively exacting poster child of the most controversial era in modern American history, the 60’s? Plausibly so, though to place Hendrix in that categorical cage would leave a free-spirited Man of music encumbered and burdened; unhappy. I would venture to say that Hendrix is grand, but imperfect, making him human. A flawed hero who overdosed on the era he rocked to represent: The high rollin’ 60’s. I wish only to extend a handshake of appreciation, respect, gratitude, and awe-laced disbelief to Hendrix for lifting the guitar as a youth, for perfecting his craft, for raising future generations of rockers, and for Woodstock ‘69. Excuse me while I kiss the sky for this guy. Stay up, Jimi. Stay all the way up there brother. Don’t ever step down from cloud If 6 Was 9.