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Music

The legendary voice Jimi Hendrix likened to a guitar

There are few names in rock ‘n’ roll more iconic than Jimi Hendrix. The extraordinarily gifted guitarist shaped rock music from the 1950s and early ’60s rhythm and blues tradition into his own heavier and unique style that has earned him praise as one of the greatest guitarists in living memory. 

Since his untimely death in 1970, when the prodigy was aged just 27, Hendrix has become almost mythical in status, much like his contemporary Jim Morrison. Aside from the strange rock ‘n’ roll romanticism of early death, Hendrix has remained an elusive figure because his stage persona was far removed from his ostensibly subdued and introverted off-stage persona. 

As Dave Davies of The Kinks once described: “In real life, Jimi Hendrix was nothing like the wild guy that he portrayed on stage. He was a quiet, introverted guy like Ray [Davies] was. He was explosive on stage, but very softly spoken off it.”

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Some people will also be surprised to learn that among Hendrix’s smaller circle of close friends was The Ronettes’ Ronnie Spector. Despite having only swirled in the music scene for a few short years before his death, it appears Hendrix made a lasting impact on the close friends he made among his musical peers. Introverts are often characterised for their more selective yet intense and meaningful friendships. 

Spector, who sadly died in January this year, never forgot the short time she was lucky enough to have Hendrix as a friend. She would often cite the guitarist as one of the driving forces behind her prevailing success because he gave her true confidence in her voice. 

During a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Spector reflected on some of her fond memories with Hendrix. Once, he complimented her voice, likening it to a guitar. “He used to play in a small place downtown in the house band,” Spector said. “I’d get up and sing – anything he would do on his guitar, I would repeat with my voice. He would say, ‘Boy, your voice sounds like a guitar.’”

Spector held that moment dear to her because Hendrix was one of few people to tell her how great her voice was. “I didn’t know my voice was supposedly that great because people didn’t tell you back then how great you were,” she continued. “Then it was, ‘Go to the ladies’ room. Re-do your eye makeup, or something.’”

Despite having found success earlier in the 1960s with The Ronettes and their successful hit ‘Be My Baby’, Spector claimed that nobody wanted her to know how accomplished she was as a singer. “I don’t think anybody wanted me to know how good I was, other than Jack Nitzsche,” Spector said. Supposedly, even her husband, the famous producer and co-writer of ‘Be My Baby’, Phil Spector, may not have taken the time to compliment her voice.

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