“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” – Jimi Hendrix
If there’s one thing Jimi Hendrix lived by, it was the above quote, that music had the ability to change the world, to change the way people acted, to shape their emotions, to be the power of good.
Active within the music industry for just seven blisteringly fast years, Hendrix would manipulate popular culture as we know it today, shaping the future of what was and was not possible on the guitar. Regarded almost unanimously as the greatest artist to even tune the instrument, Hendrix lit fire the world of music almost as literally as he did to the guitar itself.
While those accepted seven years of active work is a period of time in which we collect every one of Hendrix’s official accolades, the three studio albums, 14 singles, two compilation albums and three live records, he, of course, had a cannon of material stretching much further. While he was born with a talent like no other, Hendrix is comparable to every other hopeful guitarist you’ve come across, quite simply, because he was willing to work from the ground up.
Having first picked up the guitar when he was 15-years-old, Hendrix would proceed to filling the stages of gutter house music venues and working alongside others a session musician – most notably joining the backing band of Little Richard. While those who met Hendrix understood that he was destined for the top, the man himself wasn’t willing to rest on the assurances of others and made sure to put in the hard hours.
“When I was 17 I formed this group with some other guys, but they drowned me out,” Hendrix is quoted as stating as part of the book Starting at Zero: His Own Story, as per The Guardian. “I didn’t know why at first, but after about three months I realised I’d have to get an electric guitar,” Hendrix once disclosed when asked about what advice he would give to aspiring musicians.
“My first was a Danelectro, which my dad bought for me. Must have busted him for a long time. But I had to show him I could play first. In those days I just liked rock ‘n’ roll, I guess. We used to play stuff by people like the Coasters. Anyway, you all had to do the same things before you could join a band. You even had to do the same steps,” he added.
Finding his feet with the instrument in his hand, Hendrix, like countless other musicians, was struggling to find his breakthrough moment: “I started looking around for places to play,” he added. “I remember my first gig was at an armoury, a National Guard place, and we earned 35 cents apiece and three hamburgers,” he continued.
“It was so hard for me at first. I knew about three songs. When it was time for us to play on stage I was all shaky. So I had to play behind the curtains. I just couldn’t get up in front. And then you get so very discouraged. You hear different bands playing around you, and the guitar player always seems like he’s so much better than you are,” Hendrix then recollected.
It’s a feeling that every musician has felt at one time or another. The crippling self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety, the nerves and the desire to do more. However, Hendrix refused to back down and pursued his dream: “Most people give up at this point, but it’s best not to. Just keep on, just keep on. Sometimes you are going to be so frustrated you’ll hate the guitar, but all of this is just a part of learning. If you stick with it you’re going to be rewarded. If you’re very stubborn you can make it,” the guitarist concluded in a spirit befitting of the greatest artist of them all.
Jimi Hendrix’s secret to success? Never give up, not for anyone or anything.