Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster

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We owe the Stratocaster to Leo Fender’s company. This California native who spent his time repairing radios built his first guitar at age 16. When he created his enterprise, he began to reflect on innovative guitar models. His idea: full-bodied guitars. To better crate the engine, this man took advice and ideas from Telecaster users, the predecessor of the Strat. That’s how in 1954, Leo Fender created the Stratocaster, a 2-“horn” 3-mic model; it’s name directly inspired by the combat that brought two powers to conquer outer space. And yet, Gibson still continued to dominate the guitar field. This was the 50s, when two important things would revolutionize the world: mass production, and rock’n’roll.

A great coincidence, since the Strat was perfectly adapted to be mass produced, bringing down the price, and making it accessible to a ton of rockers in training. Before Hendrix, the Strat was only utilized by a handful of guitarists, like Buddy Holly and Hank Marvin. Jimi Hendrix had several Stratocasters over the course of his career. As a child, he made guitars with the limited means he had. In 1958, Jimi was offered his first acoustic guitar. It was a right-handed model, but Jimi was born left-handed. So he simply inverted the cords, a habit that he would keep, since he preferred to have his adjustment knobs located above. 

In 1965, George Harrison and John Lennon played on Strats for the album Rubber Soul. That same year, Hendrix bought his first Stratocaster. Sunday August 17th, 1969. On board a stolen van, Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix tried to beat the crowds to the site of the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Hendrix was stretched out on the hood, spacing out. No rush though, the festival was already running ten hours late. It wasn’t until Monday morning at sunrise that Hendrix would finally take the stage. 320,000 people had already left the festival; for the scattered leftovers, the hour had come to witness the birth of a legend. The man’s body was prolonged by an instrumental excrescence – the guitar was a white Stratocaster, model number 240981. The Woodstock “White Strat” would become legend, since it was the only one to escape Hendrix’s ritual.

With his metaphorical logic, the destruction of a guitar was a ritual act that aimed to pulverize a part of himself so that it could later be reborn. On June 4th, 1967, at the Monterey festival, Paul McCartney was in the house. Hendrix played “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” as an homage to the Beatles. At the end of a manic show, during the final “Are You Experienced”, Jimi immolated his 1965 Strat, painted red and decorated with arabesques, before smashing it on the ground! And that’s how the prophet brought the Stratocaster to the ranks of an icon. 

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