Jim Hendrix (Johnny Allen Hendrix, 1942-1970) was a legendary rock guitarist and songwriter whose innovative, haunting, and almost voodoo-like technique has influenced music and musicians to this day, to include the classical violinist Nigel Kennedy.
Hendrix’s song lyrics often point to a kind of gnosticism – “Have you ever been experienced? Well I am.” He also sings about his psychiatric diagnosis: “Manic Depression’s a frustrating mess.”
Although his work touches on mysticism, it seems to be influenced by heavy drugs and arguably not a form of mysticism that leads to a healthy spiritual life.
For decades it’s been rumored that Hendrix put LSD tabs underneath his headband while performing live. So drug-filled perspiration from his forehead would apparently flow down into his eyes to be absorbed there into his bloodstream, almost like a time-release mechanism that kept him high. (Another version of this urban legend is that he cut his forehead before putting the LSD tab on top of the wound, and then covered it with a headband.)
Hendrix died in 1970, probably due to an unintentional overdose of sleeping pills, taken after a night of partying. He was only 27 years old, an age which seems to have an uncanny and tragic significance in rock music.
His career and death grouped him with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones as one of the 27 Club, a group including iconic 1960s rock stars who suffered drug-related deaths at the age of 27 within a two year period, leaving legacies in death that have eclipsed the popularity and influence they experienced during their lifetimes. Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse were later added to this list, also dying at the age of 27.¹
In hindsight, its tempting to ask if Hendrix’s life would have turned out better if only he’d hooked up with some kind of spiritual guide or director.
It’s a moot point, of course. His greatness as a guitarist was probably linked to his lifestyle choices. So we might say that he was a great artist but not a great mystic.
Having said that, he certainly didn’t let fame go to his head:
“I feel guilty when people say I’m the greatest on the scene… Your name doesn’t mean a damn, it’s your talents and your feelings that matter. You’ve got to know much more than just the technicalities of the notes; you’ve got to know what goes between the notes.”
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- Did Jimi Hendrix and Ted Nugent ever Jam together (wiki.answers.com)
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- VIDEO: Jimi Hendrix Death Announcement (ABC News 9-18-70) – RIP Jimi, The Experience Always Lives On! (psychedelichippiemusic.blogspot.com)
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