January 27, 2021

The New Yorker: Rewinding Jimi Hendrix’s National Anthem

Paul Grimstad delves into the cultural signifance of Jimi Hendrix playing The Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969 in an article for The New Yorker:

The solo might also be registering a different war, one that had been going on at home. The previous year, Martin Luther King, Jr., had been fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, and the blow delivered to the civil-rights movement—centrally inspired by King’s dream of a time “when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”—seems somehow part of the rage flying out of Hendrix’s amplifiers. All the exalted ideals of the American experiment, and the bitterness of its contradictions and hypocrisies, are placed in volatile admixture through an utterly American contraption, a device you might say is the result of a collaboration between Benjamin Franklin, Leo Fender , and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the mongrel machine that Hendrix made into a medium for a new kind of virtuosity. In the Woodstock performance of the national anthem, we find that an electric guitar can be made to convey the feeling that the country’s history could be melted down, remolded, and given a new shape.

» jimihendrix.com

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