Jimi Hendrix: Military Man

One of the most iconic figures in entertainment history spent time in the US Army, as a member of the 101st Airborne Division, headquartered in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

Woodstock famously ended on Monday morning with Jimi Hendrix playing an unforgettable version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” (Woodstock was supposed to end Sunday night, but the schedule was so backed up, Hendrix didn’t go on until Monday morning).

It’s interesting that the guy who played what was a seemingly-mocking version (it wasn’t) of one of his native country’s most sacred pieces, at the pinnacle of hippiedom, had served in his nation’s military.

In an essay entitled “Star Spangled Banned: Anthem Of A Generation,” Wayne Pemu shares,

“While Hendrix served as reigning crown prince of the hippies at the end of the ’60s, a brief but crucial part of the early decade was spent in less glamorous confines as a member of the 101st Airborne stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. While in retrospect, the notion of Hendrix as a soldier seems comical, his stint as a paratrooper was crucial to his artistic development.

In later years, Hendrix would speak animatedly about the adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane and free-falling through the sky. The combined terror and exhilaration, the enormous whooshing sound followed by the strange, placid calm of floating down, were experiences he wanted to recreate in musical terms.”

To say that Hendrix accomplished that wouldn’t adequately convey just how much he did. You have to listen to fully grasp the experience.

Below is a letter he wrote to his dad while stationed at Ft. Campbell (credit: Jimi Hendrix Experience).

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*Originally published June 4, 2009

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