Versatile guitarist John Mayer describes Jimi Hendrix:
Jimi Hendrix is one of those extraordinary hubs of music where everybody lands at some point. Every musician passes through Hendrix International Airport eventually — whether you’re a Black Sabbath fan or an Elmore James fan; whether you like Hanson or the Grateful Dead. He is the common denominator of every style of contemporary music. There were so many sides to his playing. Was he a bluesman? Listen to “Voodoo Chile” and you’ll hear some of the eeriest blues you can find. Was he a rock musician? He used volume as a device. That’s rock. Was he a sensitive singer-songwriter? In “Bold As Love,” he sings, “My yellow in this case is not so mellow/In fact I’m trying to say it’s frightened like me” — that is a man who knows the shape of his heart
So often, he’s portrayed as a loud, psychedelic rock star lighting his guitar on fire. But when I think of Hendrix, I think of some of the most placid, lovely guitar sounds on songs like “One Rainy Wish,” “Little Wing” and “Drifting.” “Little Wing” is painfully short and painfully beautiful. It’s like your grandfather coming back from the dead and hanging out with you for a minute and a half and then going away. It’s perfect, then it’s gone.
But when I listen to Hendrix, I just hear a man, and that’s when it’s most beautiful — when you remember that another human being was capable of what he achieved. I will always try to attain that kind of control on the guitar: Hendrix’s playing was sloppy, but it was controlled. Who I am as a guitarist is defined by my failure to become Jimi Hendrix. And that’s who a lot of people have become. However far you stop on your climb to be like him, that’s who you are.