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Flashing Back on Jimi Hendrix

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This week’s NLS Music Notes blog is a guest post by Carter Rawson.

Finding a safe space amidst the disruption and tumult of 2020 has been a challenge for many of us. Today we recall the life and work of Jimi Hendrix—who challenged most preconceived notions of popular music in the 20th century to create a new space for music appreciation.

Jimi Hendrix / Designed by Larry Smart. Poster showing a psychedelic head-and-shoulders portrait of Jimi Hendrix with flames. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.

James Marshall Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942, and it has been 50 years since his passing in September of 1970. It is important to note the enduring influence of the late guitar legend who “disrupted” the music world in a fashion that is perhaps analogous to Jackson Pollack’s impact on the art world. Like Pollack’s bold approach to the canvas, Hendrix’s unconventional approach to the medium of popular song was, in its day, revolutionary. In an era when electric guitars were frequently disparaged as noisemakers, Hendrix “raised the bar” on guitar technique to introduce virtuosity not previously experienced in rock and roll.

Prior to his explosive emergence in 1967 with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix collected bona fides on the R&B circuit. Over time, he won over jazz audiences, helping to secure his place as an “ambassador” for the instrument even after his passing. Like Charlie Parker did with jazz saxophone in the 1950s, Hendrix took the guitar in a different musical direction than most of his contemporaries could conceive of. His well-known “left-handed” and “upside down” playing style challenged other practitioners to improve their technique. Concertgoers best remember him for his trademark use of the “wah-wah”, and other effects pedals, which left an indelible mark on the listening public. His showmanship has been well documented on film and LP, most notably during the Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals. Likewise, his celebrity status has been chronicled in countless books with the consensus being that Hendrix was a shy person offstage and preferred to let his guitar do the talking.

Sometimes tender, often times squalling, Hendrix compositions were frequently arranged for the express purpose of electric amplification as evidenced by “Voodoo Chile” and “Purple Haze.” For the uninitiated, these songs may seem overwhelming and hard to recreate. However, it is easy to notice his influence in the hands of more polished contemporaries like Santana, or in the pop songcraft of later artists such as Prince.

The Hendrix legacy casts a long shadow. One of his most tuneful songs is “Angel”, which posthumously became a staple of the rock canon, and is recommended listening.  “Red House” is a standout acoustic blues that can easily warm a coffee house or a concert hall. It is equally important to mention Hendrix’s power as an interpreter of other songwriters, most notably Bob Dylan. His treatment of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” neatly encapsulates Jimi’s genius. Less well known and worth seeking out is a cover of Dylan’s “Drifter’s Escape.”

The NLS music collection features a number of items spotlighting this trailblazing artist and his unforgettable sound. To borrow any of the titles listed below that relate to this blog, you may either download them from BARD or request a hard copy through the mail. Please contact the NLS Music Section to borrow hard copies of braille music, talking books on digital cartridge, or large-print music. Call us at 1-800-424-8567, or e-mail us at [email protected] for assistance. We look forward to hearing from you!


Talking Books


Adams, Chris. The Grail Guitar: the Search for Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” Telecaster. The author bought a Fender Telecaster guitar from a music store in London in 1973. At the time, the salesman told him one of Jimi Hendrix’s roadies had brought in the instrument. Forty years later, hearing rumors of a famous lost Hendrix guitar, Adams decides to investigate. 2016. (DB85913)

Brown, Bill. Bold as Love. Bill Brown teaches how to play “Bold as Love” in the style of Jimi Hendrix without the use of music notation. (DBM01995)

____ Catfish Blues. Bill Brown teaches how to play “Catfish Blues” in the style of Jimi Hendrix without the use of music or tabs. (DBM01997)

____ Little Wing. Bill Brown teaches how to play the studio version of the Jimi Hendrix song “Little Wing” on the guitar without the use of music notation. (DBM03359)

____ Red House. Bill Brown teaches how to play “Red House” in the style of Jimi Hendrix without the use of music or tabs. (DBM02055)

____ Smooth. Bill Brown teaches how to play the guitar part to “Smooth” in the style of Santana without using music or tab. Includes a lesson on chord progression. (DBM02327)

____ VooDoo Child. Bill Brown teaches how to play “VooDoo Child” (The 1970 version of “VooDoo Chile”) in the style of Jimi Hendrix without the use of music or tabs. (DBM02076)

Evil Ways: as Performed by Santana. Contains instructions on how to play this song on guitar entirely by audio instruction and examples. Cartridge only. (DBM03055)

Funaro, Arti. Rock Guitar Soloing. Arti Funaro teaches modern styles in this course, covering solos in the blues shuffle, funky blues of Albert King, heavy metal of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Eddie Van Halen, soul of Sam and Dave, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett, New Wave, and jazz/pop of George Benson. (DBM01303)

Popular Music Lead Sheets no. 15. Descriptive audio lesson includes five songs with lyrics, including “When Doves Cry” by Prince, with vocal part, partial accompaniment (right hand), and chord symbols dictated. The music is not performed. (DBM01287)

Roby, Steven. Hendrix on Hendrix: Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix. Presents fifty-seven interviews with Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) from news articles and radio transcripts, conducted from December 1966 to just before his death in September 1970. Also includes court testimony excerpts. Hendrix discusses his musical influences, the social issues of the day, and his drug use. 2012. (DB75941)

Shapiro, Harry. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy. Historical biography and reference work by an author of books about musicians and the founder and curator of the Hendrix Information Center in England. The authors chronicle the abbreviated life of this legendary electric guitar player and his rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The emphasis is on Hendrix’s artistry rather than on the destructive elements in his life. (DB34847)


Braille Music


Hendrix, Jimi. Angel. Piano chords and lyrics in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM24143)

____ VooDoo Child: Slight Return. For voice and piano with chord symbols included. This is a 1970 version of “Voodoo Chile”, which was originally recorded in 1968. The two titles are often confused for one another. Line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM21931)

Popular Music Lead Sheets no 130. Includes melody, words, and chord symbols. Features “May You Feel my Love” by Bob Dylan. (BRM36811)


Large Print


Bay, Melbourne Earl. Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method : Grade 1. (LPM00024)

____ Grade 2. (LPM00258)

____ Grade 3. (LPM00231)

Comments (2)

  1. Jimi’s Purple Haze was my mind-blowing entry into Rock ‘n Roll music.It was one of those moments where I remember where I was when I first heard it. I was 13 and the next year I bought my first bass guitar. I’ve been playing for over 50 years now. I listened to Jimi’s album just yesterday. Amazing! How I miss the man…

    • Thank you for sharing your story! Jimi Hendrix was an amazing musician.

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