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Jimi Hendrix turns 80 and sounds better and better: The first and last day of the great guitarist

Fingers to write songs. Fingers to shake hands, to caress, to clap, to prepare the next dose. Fingers to cling to an instrument as if his life depended on it, as if he needed a weight to keep him on the ground so as not to ascend, weightless, while making music. Fingers to learn, to sign contracts, to point a path in five directions, ten directions, a kaleidoscope of directions. Fingers to expand consciousness. Fingers to start space travel without leaving your site. Fingers to be a tightrope walker who walks on them while going around the world executing a solo of inextinguishable fire. Fingers, in short, to play a guitar.

The first time he received an electric was most likely on this day, but in 1959, when his father gave him a 1957 Supro Ozark, which cost him $89 at the Myers Music Shop in Seattle, a store that would become legendary. So, the acoustics that he had bought himself before, inspired by Robert Johnson, Howlin´ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Albert King or Chuck Berry, evolved with him. It was no longer just wind: it was also lightning and thunder.

Seattle, the city that had seen him born in November 1942, would release the furious echoes of his first jammin’s, through the same streets where, almost 50 years later, he would do the same with Cobain, Vedder, Staley or Cornell. From the primal scream to psychedelia, and from this to grunge, there is a single fire that devours the entrails.

It was a long way that his fingers had to travel on the strings until they reached sufficient skill. Strict compliance with the gravitational laws that define the relationship of the buds with the nylon was not enough. It was not enough to erase his fingerprints like someone transferring his own identity to the guitar. Ritual, fire and sacrifice were needed. Sweat, sleepless nights and shooting towards other planets, rocket with colored fuel. The sounds that came out of his guitar could not belong to this earth. Where did he bring them from if he just closed his eyes while playing, almost still, only in the grip of certain spasms and contractions? His trance was our hypnosis. It still is. The vague illusion of discovering that mystery is, perhaps, one of the reasons why 8.5 million listeners a month choose Jimi Hendrix, an artist made fog for 52 years, as the soundtrack of their lives, according to Spotify figures. And that we do not count the times that it still plays, a soul that struggles to return to earth, through CD or vinyl on anonymous players or turntables.

Hey Jimi

What internal speaker transmits riffs like those of Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Child, All Along The Watch Tower or Purple Haze to take them from your brain to your fingers and from them to the air, to your crackling imposition on silence, to the brains of those who hear them to never be the same people again?

One night in September 1966, Chas Chandler, bassist for The Animals turned emerging manager, wondered the same thing. He made it to Cafe Wha? from New York’s Greenwich Village to meet the virtuoso guitarist they had told him about. A 24-year-old boy who had played with The Isley Brothers, Little Richard or Curtis Knight. The Cafe Wha? It was the place where Dylan played for the first time in 1961 when he arrived in New York after hitchhiking halfway across the country. Richie Havens had heard the young Jimi Hendrix, got him an audition, and his fingers did the rest.

“The first song Jimi played was ‘Hey, Joe,’ and I stayed. you know? I didn’t even know about the rest of the performance. What I saw was a guitar virtuoso, I saw the best guitarist I had ever seen in my life”, Chandler narrated years later, who, for that night, added many sleeplessness, obsessed with finding the right person to play that same song. . He found it made of phalanges, nails and meat. Seeing Hendrix was a sign, a revelation. Chandler offered to take him to London to prolong the epiphany, and Jimi made one condition: he had to meet Eric Clapton. Shortly after, on October 1, I was playing with him and his band Cream at the University of Westminster. His Fender Stratocoaster—on temporary loan from Keith Richards, through his girlfriend Linda Keith, Hendrix’s friend and “Ruby Tuesday” muse—was up against Clapton’s Fender Stratocoaster. He was Slow Hand, he was God, the man whose lifelines were nylon strings making music from his palms, from his burning flesh. The newcomer was combustion itself. The man the guitar had to play in order to have a life and a howl of his own. One that returned the pampering stimulating her with his whole body, licking her, rubbing her, biting her, changing her arm, shaking her between her legs, on her back, with fire.

After surviving that function –Clapton would later say: “He left [del escenario] and my life was never the same again”-, Jimi Hendrix would spend the next 4 years surprising the public while exhibiting from the stage, impudent and lethal, the erotic passion that he lived with his instrument, which was nothing more than the continuation of itself. Because at the height of his stratospheric talent, he was a lover and an onanist at the same time. Jimi Hendrix was to the guitar what Hugh Hefner was to Playboy in those same years: the only one who could completely undress her, and with her her own inner demons.

Jimi Hendrix released just three albums in the very short 4 years that his career lasted. Like a guitar solo with closed eyes that goes by very quickly. Just one last performance at the Hotel Samarkand, in Notting Hill, on the night of September 17-18, 1970, would remain as the final echo. And a supposition, like the last flame of the forest hell that were its 27 years of existence: that in the midst of the dream of barbiturates and wine in which it left, a last impulse perhaps moved its fingers in the air to touch, once again, its guitar. As if he was going to save his life thanks to a Stratocoaster, a Gibson Les Paul, a Guild Starfire V or a Fender Jazzmaster, some of the guitars he played. Fingers. Fingers to cling to an instrument as if his life depended on it, as if he needed a weight to keep him on the ground so as not to ascend, weightless, while he makes music. If he could really turn 80 today, would he still burn them?

“I want to make music so perfect that it filters through the body and is capable of curing any disease,” he once said. The day Jimi Hendrix didn’t move his fingers again, the world died a little more. Fortunately, it was not forever, because, in the manner of Johnny Carter/Charlie Parker, the protagonist of El Perseguidor, the famous short story by Julio Cortázar, songs like Hey, Joe, All Along The Watch Tower, Fire, The Wind Cries Mary , Wild Thing or Purple Haze, Jimi is playing them tomorrow. He already touched them tomorrow.

Source: Elcomercio

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