What Defines A Legend? Peter Carr Investigates!
The term legend is attached to many famous and cult figures in music, from rock stars to avant garde pioneers the term is used, but i want to know, what defines a legend?
Well i suppose i better start by naming a few of my own musical ‘legends’ Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Ozzy Osbourne, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. There are also bands that i deem as ‘legendary’ Black Sabbath, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Guns n’ Roses, The Smiths to name a few, all have in some way have helped expand their genre and influenced many artists years later.
To truly see what defines a legend i suppose looking at what they have done and achieved is the only way to understand them and the term. Since there are so many legends documenting them all would take me an age and i don’t want to bore you, the reader, too much so i’ll focus on one, Mr Jimi Hendrix.
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix (later changed to James Marshall) on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. Hendrix had a difficult upbringing sometimes living with other members of his family or acquaintances. Hendrix’s mother Lucille was only 17 when Hendrix was born, and the family the young Jimi was born into was anything but perfect. Jimi’s father Al had a stormy relationship with Lucille and the couple eventually split, sadly Lucille died in 1958 and Hendrix didn’t see her much before her death. The teenage Jimi always had a place in his heart and soul for music, at the age of 14 Hendrix saw Elvis Presley play and a year later got his very first guitar. Flash forward to 1961 and Jimi entered the US army as a paratrooper but still managed to involve music in his life forming a band called ‘The King Casuals’ when 1962 rolled around Hendrix was discharged from the army due to an injury and his musical legacy was about to begin.
After playing backing with Little Richard and doing some session work Hendrix met a man that would change his life, Chas Chandler a former member of The Animals and the man who would become Hendrix’s manager. Chas took Jimi to London and put him in touch with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.
The rest of Hendrix’s life after the forming of ‘The Experience’ is well documented in the really well written book ‘Room Full Of Mirrors’ By Charles R Cross, a great read for any Hendrix fan or newcomer alike.
The first song i ever heard by Hendrix was ‘Purple Haze’ and i was blown away, i’d never heard such raw and primal guitar playing before, i was an instant fan and took to the music shops to get my hands on albums to hear more of this amazing music. The first album i bought was ‘Are You Experienced?’ i can still remember getting home, going to my room putting the album on and lying on my bed. I was blown away, took on a trip into another world lead by Hendrix and co, sending me up into the air on soaring riffs and brought to ground by funky bass lines and crashing drums, then the one track came on that has been a firm favorite of mine since ‘Manic Depression’ it had everything i wanted from music, driving guitar and bass and a drum beat that just blew my mind, everything just fit perfect for me. Since that first full listen to Hendrix i have acquired more albums and each time never been disappointed. I would say to the reader, if you aren’t already familiar with Hendrix take some time to check him out, his music is timeless and still relevant, you won’t regret it.
Hendrix pretty much smashed the concept of electric guitar music and rebuilt it in a short time, his influence is still being felt today and lots of guitarists still cite him as a major influence.
A musical legend is someone who has the ability to stand the test of time and perform on such a high level that he or she transcends mere talent of giftedness, that’s my definition of a legend and i think you’ll agree, it fits Jimi Hendrix perfectly.