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Jimi Hendrix is the #1 Rock and Roll Star of All Time
I've been in rock and roll all my life and I admit it's bit difficult to put Jimi Hendrix above Mick Jagger in terms of brilliant rock and roll stardom, but after watching several movies of both Jimi and Mick in concert, here's why I would do it:
1. BEST MUSICIAN
Jimi Hendrix was the only true genius in rock and roll. The word genius is highly overused and it's often applied to people who are extremely talented. I disagree with the dictionary when it equates genius with "exceptional intelligence", and what I think the word genius is supposed to refer to is a person who creates something that's new, and not only new, but significantly new, important, and somewhat of a milestone in human development. I call Albert Einstein the premier genius of the human race because the Theory of Relativity was a giant jump in the understanding of the way our universe operates and to this day, few people actually understand anything other than the bomb part. Jimi Hendrix was the genius of rock and roll because he was the only one who invented something new. It's almost impossible to do anything that's really new in the field of music because there are only eight notes in the Western scale so in a sense, all music is derivative. But Jimi invented guitar feedback and nobody before Jimi even thought about it. And Jimi took his invention one step farther. Until Jimi came along, all music since the time of Mozart and Beethoven has been built on chord structure and rock and roll music uses simple chord structure. Jimi actually used feedback alone to construct song structure in a few, but not all of his songs (i.e. Third Stone From the Sun). To this day, nobody has been able to do what Jimi did. In fact, Jeff Beck bought Jimi's strat at an auction and even the super talented Jeff admitted that he can't get the same sounds out of the very same guitar as Jimi got. With all due respect to Mick, he's a brilliant singer and one of the all time great rock and roll songwriters, but he's not actually a brilliant musician because he only plays rhythm guitar. I believe Mick would agree with me about Jimi being a genius guitar player because Mick was one of the first ones to discover Jimi when The Experience made their debut in the clubs of London. Along with John Lennon, Mick spread the word to the other British musicians about the new nova in the rock and roll sky.
2. BEST PERFORMER
It's a tie between Jimi and Mick. Call it a dead heat with one survivor. If Elvis was still breathing he'd be breathing down both of their necks and I probably will get flack from a whole lot of people for saying that, and even more flack from the know-nothing fans of Madonna, Prince (whoever he is these days) and Michael Jackson (not to mention Roberta FLACK). Certainly Elvis came first and Elvis was The King, but Jimi and Mick both had their own unique styles and neither one were heavily influenced by Elvis in terms of their performances. Mick was influenced by James Brown's dancing and only God knows who influenced Jimi's performance style because he was truly an original. Besides, Elvis moved on to acting and he starred in tons of below average movies - and now I'll really get flack! Unfortunately I won't get Roberta. But seriously, Mick deserves an award for putting on a great show every single time he appears, he did that right from his debut as a young man, and he's continued to do that as an old man. Jimi died as a young man. Both of them were sex stars on stage as well as off stage but watching Jimi on stage is nothing short of breathtaking. He had all the moves, he had the body of a black Adonis, he played his guitar with his teeth, behind his back, under his leg, and when he set fire to it at the end of his shows, he got down on his knees and prayed to the Guitar God who obviously listened to him. He wasn't a dancer like Mick, he was a mover and a shaker of women's "G" spots. People standing in front of his stage all had the same astounded expression on their faces as if to say, "I can't believe this guy! What galaxy did he come from?"
3. SONGWRITING TALENT
"And the Wind Cried Mary". Oh, Jimi, how poetic can you possibly be? So the galactic storm screamed "Jimi", and what hetero man in his right mind doesn't want that "Foxy Lady"? I suppose that a man who's in a "Purple Haze" might not be able to recognize one, and a man who's in a state of "Manic Depression" might not be able to get out of bed and do anything about it, but every time Jimi launches into Foxy Lady with his famous dissonant E chord my libido stands up and salutes. And every time I hear that all time classic feedback note in the middle of the song, it never fails to send shivers up my spine. Comparisons to other songwriters are superfluous. Jimi quite obviously wrote more than a few great rock and roll songs, he almost always had something important to say, and he always said it in a poetic way.
4. SINGING TALENT
As a professional rock and roll singer, it's hats off time to Mick. Oh, I'll get big arguments about that but people who would argue the point don't understand rock and roll singing. It's not about range, power, or technical perfection. It's all about emotion and style. Mick knows how to sing without necessarily using words. Like Robert Plant, he often uses sounds alone to express emotions. A case in point is "Going Home" on the Aftermath album which consists of 11 minutes of Mick having sex with a microphone. Jimi Hendrix was actually embarrassed by his own singing because as a great musician, he recognized and understood the great singers. In the recording studio, he was the master of guitar but he recorded his vocals over and over and over again until he got something that he could just live with. But I put Jimi in the same class as Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. These are great artists who were all perfectly capable of putting across their own unique songs in a way that nobody else can. I'm not a fan of Dylan's voice and when The Byrds recorded Dylan songs, they did a good job but they lack Dylan's sarcasm and his almost bored feeling with his own poetic brilliance. I'm a big fan of Bob Marley and I like his voice, but I recognize that he's not a great singer. It just so happens that I love Jimi's voice. I hear Bob Dylan's influence and I know that Jimi was a fan of Bob's voice and of his lyrics. But Jimi did something very unusual vocally and in the theater, it's called an "aside". Jimi had a wonderful habit of flipping off little spoken phrases, very often interrupting himself while he was singing and it came off as being totally COOL. When it comes to singers, people either like them or they don't and all I can say is that as a professional singer, Jimi's voice works for me big time.
5. SEXUAL AURA
Every rock star has it. Jimi had too much of it for one man. I'm wildly hetero but I'm wowed by the sexual aura that surrounds Jimi on film. I was lucky enough to see him one time in person and I can testify that he was as HOT as it's possible for a human being to be in the flesh. There are an uncountable number of women who would be quite willing to testify about Jimi's abilities in the bedroom.
So in conclusion, it's not necessary to be a great musician to be a rock star, just like it's not necessary to be a great actor to be a movie star. This should be self evident and there are way too many examples in both fields to start listing them. But Jimi was a genius guitar player, a unique and atomicly powerful performer, a great songwriter, a very good singer, a super nova sex star, and a world class personality on top of everything else. That's why I call Jimi Hendrix the Number One Rock Star of All Time.
About the Author: Peter Cross is a former professional drummer and a singer/songwriter/producer/Web Master who was among the first to put music on the Internet in a downloadable format in 1996. You can find this article at: Jimi Hendrix is the #1 Rock and Roll Star of All Time. Examples of some of the first downloadable rock and roll music can be found at: John is Alive, Hangin' with Arnie, and Belchmeister. His home page is at: Rock and Roll with an Immortal Soul where his copyright is displayed right above the “Greatest Rock Sites on the Web” designation.