Poster Jimi Hendrix
Rock guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix caught mid-guitar-break during his performance at the Isle of Wight Festival.
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Rhapsody in Black

Guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix had a love for classical music

Rhapsody in Black - Jimi Hendrix

Guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix has many similarities to violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini. Both were charismatic, had international success, and had a love for classical music. In a 1967 interview found in the 2013 book, Starting at Zero: His Own Story, Hendrix said, “I dig Strauss and Wagner, those cats are good, and I think they are going to form the background of my music.” He also confessed, “I’d like to take a six-month break and go to a school of music. I want to learn to read music, be a model student and study and think.” It’s fascinating to hear a self-taught guitar legend wish he had formal classical training.

Musical selections from Jimi Hendrix

‘Voodoo Child’

This video of Hendrix performing “Voodoo Child“ in Maui is from the documentary, Music, Money, Madness... Jimi Hendrix in Maui. It is about the making of the poorly received film Rainbow Bridge, which is about the psychedelic movement in Hawaii. Even though Hendrix was part of this terrible film, the experience did not hurt his popularity or the song.

‘Purple Haze’

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an American-English rock band that was highly influential in popularizing hard and psychedelic rock. “Purple Haze” is easily one of his most famous and recognizable songs. Due to the vague meaning of the lyrics the song is often associated with psychedelic or drug-induced experiences even though Hendrix has stated it is a love song.

Violinist Nigel Kennedy’s cover of ‘Purple Haze’

Modern-day violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy has spent much of his career learning about the works of Hendrix. Kennedy showcases his improvisational skills during a 2005 performance of his unique rendition of “Purple Haze” with the Polish Chamber Orchestra. As much as classical music was an influence on Hendrix, he also influenced classical music.


Host: Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher

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About Rhapsody in Black

Where we turn up the voices of Black artists in the world of classical music, with host Vernon Neal.

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