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Jimi Hendrix is one of the most important musicians of all time, and without his tremendous contribution to popular culture, life today would not be the same. It’s no coincidence that Hendrix would be able to count everyone from Prince to Alice in Chains as disciples.

The guitarist influenced countless artists across the broad spectrum of music, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any act of sincere value that hasn’t been inspired by Hendrix in one way or another. 

However, Hendrix’s legacy stretches way further than purely the musical. His position as a Black man, who had risen to the top of the white-dominated music industry, was nothing short of groundbreaking. It wasn’t like the success of Motown which was made by Black people for Black people, before being picked up by the white mainstream. Hendrix did everything his own way and for himself. All the success that came after was purely secondary. 

A true iconoclast, when he burst onto the scene in 1967, the world was caught off guard. Famously, when Hendrix performed at the Saville Theatre in London on June 4th, 1967, all the most prominent names of the day; Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton, to name just three, were given the kick in the bottom they needed.

This young, Black upstart from America had shown them all up, and bar McCartney, who had just released Sgt. Pepper’s with The Beatles, they needed to raise the level of their playing. Ironically, Hendrix was only just getting started. 

It was towards the end of the decade that Hendrix set the rulebook on fire, showing that Black artists could rock harder than anyone else. His third and final studio album, Electric Ladyland, which featured the iconic cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’, reached number one on the album charts in the US. This, for the time, was completely unheard of. 

After the successes of Electric Ladyland and his previous albums, coupled with the fact that his live sets had become the thing of mythological proportions, Hendrix became the world’s highest-paid performer in 1969. That year, he headlined the hippie show of arms, Woodstock, and then the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, only months before his death in September. 

At the time, Woodstock was the most noteworthy festival in the world, and for a Black man to headline, and be paid more than the majority-white bands, was colossal. Hendrix had set the stage for the future. In many ways, without this moment, Jay-Z might not have headlined Glastonbury in 2008. 

Hendrix looked, acted and sounded different, and after his legendary Woodstock set, he totally changed the vision of what a Black American musician should be. He took the baton from Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and finished what they started. It’s a testament to Hendrix’s work, that jazz pioneer Miles Davis, was also deeply impressed by his work. 

The new world arrived when Hendrix did, and although there was much to be done after his death in 1970, and still is, the steps he made were groundbreaking, just another reason why he’s still so revered today.

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