Oddly Enough, This Has Been The Year Of Jimi Hendrix
It’s been almost exactly 47 years since Jimi Hendrix was laid to rest. The music icon famously passed away far too early, at age 27. And though his music was legendary, it would be easy to understand if his influence had faded over the decades. Instead, Hendrix only seems to have gotten better with age. Sure, the general style in which he played and performed may now be a little bit old fashioned, but even more than most of his own contemporaries he just seems to have endured. Modern artists across all genres still name him as a key influence – not just guitarists. Future said Hendrix inspired a whole tour of his, for instance, and A$AP Rocky included a Hendrix album among his 25 favorites.
You get the idea, and if you’re a big music fan it’s not surprising. Jimi Hendrix is often labeled as a classic rock artist or a blues rocker, but the truth has always been that his style and cultural impact transcended genre. He was a gifted guitarist, a singer who could set an atmosphere, a skilled songwriter, and to some a symbol of his own time even as he lived it. It’s no wonder that an artist with such broad reach has continued to have an impact on other musicians and music fans decades after his death. What’s somewhat more surprising, however, is how much we’ve seen in this year alone regarding efforts to further immortalize Hendrix.
Somewhat surprisingly, it started with an online game. Sites providing a variety of casino games have gotten into the habit of relying on popular celebrities, films, shows, and other elements of pop culture in designing interesting titles. And among some of these titles, Game of Thrones and Jimi Hendrix have been highlighted as two of the primary examples. That pairing is interesting in and of itself, given that it puts Hendrix alongside potentially the biggest pop culture phenomenon of our time! But the Hendrix game itself (which was technically designed in 2016, but has come into its own this year) is a full-fledged tribute to the artist, featuring several hit songs and a comprehensive aesthetic in the spirit of the man.
A game like that might reach more people than you expect. But the more direct Hendrix tribute of the year came later on, when a park was opened in his honor in Seattle. This was a park that was being developed for years, and there was some public frustration with what felt like indefinite delays. But on June 17th of this year it was finally opened to the public, who were encouraged to visit and spend the day immersed in art and music. That, after all, is the point of this particular tribute. It’s a park packed with Hendrix symbolism, meant as a pleasant public space but also as one that might inspire the city’s youth to take up instruments themselves. It’s frankly difficult to imagine a much more fitting celebration of the artist.
Not to be outdone, however, New York is trying to match Seattle with its own remembrance of Hendrix, who lived in Manhattan’s West Village for a time. It’s less of an experience than an internet game or a public park, but some people in town are pushing to re-name a street Jimi Hendrix Way. Specifically it’s a stretch of 8th street between 5th and 6th Avenue – the site where Hendrix opened his own studio before he passed away. Still a hot spot for New York City music production and performance, the area would be an appropriate location for a Jimi Hendrix Way. And people behind the movement specifically want this done so that young people will be encouraged to learn the history.
It’s ordinary for a great musician to come up from time to time. But the focus on Hendrix in 2017 goes a little bit beyond what we usually expect – in a most welcome way.