The Rock and Roll story is full of triumph and tragedy. So many talented artists were taken away, way too early. Sadder still a lot of these groundbreaking musicians lost battles with their demons of excess. I want to focus on two of them for this piece, Jimi Hendrix and Randy Rhoads.
Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington in 1942. He served in the U.S. army and was honorably discharged. Military.com reports, “ As you'd expect, young Private Hendrix's rebellious attitude didn't especially wow his commanding officers -- among his many faults, he slept while on duty, required constant supervision, and wasn't a particularly good marksman.” Tennessee was his next stop where he played guitar in Little Richard’s band. In 1966 Hendrix moved to England, it was here there he was discovered by Linda Keith. She lent him her boyfriend’s, Keith Richards, guitar. This helped him created his signature sound. A few months later his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, produced a string of hits. Four years later, at the age of 27 Hendrix died of an accidental barbiturate overdose.
Rhoads was born in Santa Monica, California in 1956.The moment that changed his life forever was when he saw Alice Cooper in concert 15 years later. A short time thereafter singer Kevin DuBrow and Rhoads formed Quiet Riot. Quickly they became one of the most popular bands in Los Angeles. They released two records, both only distributed in Japan. Rhoads was asked to audition for former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne. Armed with a practice amp and his guitar, he walked into Osbourne’s hotel room, played a solo and Ozzy gobbled him up. He wrote and played on Ozzy’s classic first two records Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Tragically In 1982, during an ill-fated attempt to mess with the Ozzy Osbourne tour bus, the pilot of his plane lost control and crashed in Leesburg, Florida. Randy Rhoads was 25 at the time.
Both Jimi and Randy were guitar innovators. They were way ahead of their times. In some ways they are still ahead of time. For example, the day after The Beatles released their infamous record, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Clubs Band they went to see Jimi play in a club in London. Much to their astonishment, Hendrix played half of their freshly debuted album. Randy Rhoads infused his classical music training with heavy metal to create a sound all of his own. It has been imitated but never duplicated.
If they had lived, what would music sound like today? I think it would sound much different. The guitar was an extension of these players’ bodies and souls. The questions are endless. Would Randy still be playing with Ozzy? Would Jimi be going out on tour with Paul McCartney?
Think of the possibilities, had we not lost them. Would the musical landscape have changed forever? Would a record or records being released with collaboration Jimi and Prince been possible? How about an album with Randy playing with someone like Christina Aguilera? I may not like her music, but she does have a very powerful voice. Combine that with Rhoads guitar riffs…wow! Or how about, and I’m really dreaming now, a Jimi and Randy record? I’d be grabbing for my keys right now and heading to the store to stand in line for a copy of that.
Perhaps, Jimi and Randy were taken from us too soon because we weren’t ready to grasp what they had to give. Decades later we are still trying to wrap our brains around what they created with their body of work. I am not a very religious person, but if there is a heaven and I’m allowed in, my first stop is check in on these two to see and hear what they are up to now.