“Don’t let things happen – make things happen” is an attitude that many people try to adopt, but circumstances around them don’t necessarily make it easy. It wasn’t easy for Jimi Hendrix to make things happen, but in his short musical career he achieved a lot, and certainly hoped to achieve more.

In selecting 50 quotes from across his most remarkable period, from 1966 until his death on Sept. 18, 1970, it’s might be easy to first conclude that Hendrix said things that still resonate today. Maybe he did; but what’s more important is that he managed to transmit ideas and attitudes to an audience that, otherwise, might never have encountered them.

That’s the most important way an artist achieves immortality.

Hendrix on his personal life

How he got his stage name: “88 percent from my birth certificate, 12 percent from misspelling.”

“If I didn’t smoke, I’d be fat as a pig. My nerves are very bad. I like tipped cigarettes mostly, alternating with menthol ones – about a pack over a day and a half.”

“I just called my dad once when I came to England to let him know I’d reached something. He asked me who I had robbed to get the money to go to England.”

“Actually, I’m scared to go home. My father is a very strict man. He would straight away grab hold of me, tear my clothes off and cut my hair!”

“You see, different music is supposed to be used in different ways. I believe the best time to listen to classical music is any time when it’s very quiet or your mind is very relaxed. When you feel like daydreaming, maybe.”

“I like to watch the lightning. Especially in the fields and flowers when I’m on my own. I read a lot of science fiction.”

Hendrix on the scene around him

On Bob Dylan: “I saw him one time, but both of us were stoned out of our minds. I remember it vaguely. … We were both stoned there, and we just hung around laughing – yeah, we just laughed.”

On the Beatles: “They’re one group that you can’t really put down because they’re just too much. And it’s so embarrassing, man, when America is sending over the Monkees – oh, God, that kills me!”

On the Who: “We don’t really break anything onstage. … If we wanted to break something up, we would do it. There’s a lot of times in the past I have felt like that too. But it isn’t just for show, and I can’t explain the feeling. It’s just like you want to let loose and do exactly what you want if your parents weren’t watching. I dig the Who; I like a lot of their songs.”

“Here’s one thing I hate, man: When these cats say, ‘Look at the band; they’re playing psychedelic music!’ And all they’re really doing is flashing lights on them and playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with the wrong chords. It’s terrible.”

“The one thing I really hate is miming. It’s so phoney. So far, the only thing I was asked to mime was a Radio London appearance and I felt guilty just standing there holding a guitar. If you want to scream and holler at a record, you can do that at home. I’m strictly a live performer.”

On the Jimi Hendrix Experience: “We know what song we’re gonna play and what key it’s in and the chord sequences, and we just take it from there. And so far it hasn’t bugged me in any way like saying, ‘Oh, no! There he goes playing that rock ’n’ roll bass pattern again.’ Everybody’s doing pretty cool.”

“I know I can’t sing; I’m primarily a guitarist. Some people think I’m good, and that’s what I want to find out. I’ve been working with myself and my ideas for 21 years. Now I want to find out from everyone else if they are any good.”

“I prefer to play in Europe, because here people listen and understand what it’s all about, whereas they freak out in the States. I don’t like playing at night because I can’t see the audience. This is the best part of big open-air festivals: It’s daylight, and you can see the faces of the audience.”

“Strangely, there were only 15,000 people left when we played at Woodstock as I insisted on playing in daylight, which meant waiting for the fourth day, and most of the kids had split by then.”

“I dug the Woodstock festival – especially Sly [Stone] and Richie Havens. And the guy from Ten Years After, yeah, I was just a little bit jealous when I saw him play.”

“I think it would be better if I’d gone to the Isle of Wight and mingled … took a sleeping bag with me and mixed with the crowds, to identity with it all. It would be so much better than all this, but there are the usual problems. If I do things like the that, people come up to me saying, ‘Look, it’s him …’”

“Sometimes I feel we should do a free concert. I see the prices that the kids pay to see us, and it’s just ridiculous.”

On his wilder stage performances: “We did those things mostly because they used to be fun. … They just came out of us. But the music was the main thing. Then what happened? The crowd started to want those things more than the music. Those little things that were just added on, like frosting, you know, became the most important. Things got changed around. We don’t do that stuff as much any more.”

Hendrix on his songwriting

“I dream a lot and I put a lot of my dreams down as songs. I wrote one called ‘First Look Around the Corner’ and another called ‘The Purple Haze,’ which was all about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea!”

“You can’t expect deep feeling to come out of music put down on bits of paper with arrangements. I feel everything I play; it’s got to be inside you.”

“You don’t plan songwriting. You don’t get into a certain groover to write a song. You can get inspiration for a song at any time, because music is just what you feel.”

“You never know what shape clouds are going to be before you see them.”

On working in his Electric Lady Studios: “It’s a very relaxing studio, and it doesn’t have that typical studio atmosphere. There are lots of cushions and pillows, thick carpets and soft lights. You can have any kind of light combination you like … just what you feel like. I think this is very important. There are many capable engineer around now; the problem is this atmosphere thing.… I’m into this combination of music and color; it’s an extra sense of awareness. I’m thinking about a film using those techniques.”

“On the first LP, I didn’t know what I was writing about then. Most of the songs, like ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The Wind Cries Mary,’ were about 10 pages long, but then we’re restricted to a certain time limit so I had to break them all down. … I didn’t know whether they were going to be understood or not. Maybe some of the meanings got lost by breaking them down, which I never do anymore.”

Hendrix on his message

“I’m a little bit quiet, a little closed. Most of the time I don’t talk so much. What I have to say, I say with my guitar.”

“I’m here to communicate. That’s my reason for being around; it’s what it’s all about. I want to turn people on, and let them know what’s happening. Even if they have 9-to-5 jobs and come to the family and TV, that’s what counts, to keep turned on.”

“But politics is old hat. Anyone can go round shaking babies by the hand, and kissing the mothers, and saying that it was groove. But you see, you can’t do this in music. Music doesn’t lie. I agree it can be misinterpreted, but it cannot lie. When there are vast changes in the way the world goes, it’s usually something like art and music that changes it. Music is going to change the world next time.”

“It’s best to have violence on stage and watch it through TV than do it yourself.”

“Some of the vibrations people claim they are getting now, it is true considering the fact that the Earth is going through a very – what do you call it – physical change soon. … Since the people are part of Earth, they are going to feel it too. In many ways, they are a lot of the reason for causing it.”

“I don’t really believe that … transcendental mediation is much more than day dreaming. If you really believe in yourself, you can think it out on your own.”

“I think religion is just a bunch of crap. It’s only man-made stuff, man trying to be what he can’t. And there’s so many broken-down variations, all trying to say the same thing, but they’re so cheeky, all the time adding in their own bits and pieces. Right now, I’m working on my own religion, which is life.”

“Some people have told me that they think wearing a military jacket is an insult to the British army. Let me tell you I wear this old British coat out of respect. This was worn by one of those ‘cats’ who used to look after the donkeys which pulled the cannons way back in 1900. This coat has a history; there’s life to it. I don’t like war, but I respect a fighting man and his courage.“

“You know, when you’re young, most people have a little burning thing, but then you get your law degree and go into your little cellophane cage. You can do the family thing. I’ve wanted to do that at times. I’ve wanted to go into the hills sometimes, but I stayed. Some people are meant to stay and carry messages.”

“[A]nybody can protest. … Like in records or whatever you use music for, anybody can protest but hardly anybody tries to give a decent type of solution – at least a meantime solution, you know.”

“[T]hat’s what the establishment’s waiting for, for people to start fighting against their own selves, like for instance black against white, yellow against pink and all that. But that’s not the idea of the thing. … The idea is against the new and the old, and the establishment causes this by playing games, by turning different colors against each other to make the younger generation weak.”

“There’s no such things as age brackets; not in my mind, ‘cause a person’s not actually old in numbers of years, but how many miles he’s traveled, you know? How he keeps his mind active and creative.”

“Your body’s only a physical vehicle to carry you from one place to another without getting into a lot of trouble. … People who fear death – it’s a complete case of insecurity. That’s why the world’s screwed up today, because people base things too much on what they see and not on what they feel.”

“There really are other people in the solar system, you know, and they have the same feelings too.”

Hendrix on his success

“I have only one life to live. I might not be here tomorrow, so I’m doing what I’m doing now.”

“All the things I thought were important before I had a hit record are just as important now:. Trying to understand people and respect their feelings, regardless of your position or theirs. The beautiful things are still the same, the sunset and the dew on the grass. No material wealth changes the way I think about these things.“

“I felt maybe too many people were coming to see me and not enough to listen to me. … My nature changed as well.”

“If I stay with one person too long, if I feel more obligated than I do pleased, that makes me – as it were – have to get away. So I don’t know how free [a] feeling like that is, if every time you turn around you might be with somebody.”

“I can’t have fun like anybody else. I used to be able to go somewhere, down to the Wimpy [burger bar] or something like that … but most of the time I go down there now, there’s always people asking for autographs, somebody looking at me really strange – you know, whispering and all that. So then, naturally you get complexes about that.”

“[I]f I wasn’t a guitar player I probably would … be in jail. … I get very stubborn, like with the police. I used to get into arguments with them millions of times. … So, I’d probably wind up getting killed.”

“Success, to me, is like doing your utmost, achieving the ultimate. Well, I have not done that. … I think I shall always be looking for success.”

Hendrix on his future

“One day I want to become a parent. Now that is what the world is all about. Having kids. Like planting flowers.”

“I’d like to have my own country, an oasis for the gypsy-minded people. My goal is to erase all boundaries in the world.”

“I want to be the first man to write about the blues scene on Venus.”

“It’s all turned full circle; I’m back right now to where I started. I’ve given this era of music everything. I still sound the same, my music’s the same, and I can’t think of anything new to add to it in its present state. … This era of music – sparked off by the Beatles – has come to an end. Something new has got to come, and Jimi Hendrix will be there.”
 
 

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