Tuesday (November 27) marks 70 years since the birth of Jimi Hendrix, the man who changed electric guitar and rock and roll forever. Every guitarist who has followed has felt his influence in some way.  Melissa Etheridge has been known to rock an electric guitar, but she’s mostly associated with her loud and heavy strumming on her acoustic. But of course, Hendrix made a big impact on her when she was turned on to him as a pre-teen.

“When I was ten years old, Jimi Hendrix was a little scary to me,” Etheridge tells CBS Local. “Yet, I knew the songs, like ‘Purple Haze.’  He sort of represented that scary rock and roll.  When I started listening to him, I started understanding what he was doing with his guitar, and the kind of playing, the extreme talent that this man had.  His understanding of blues, how to play it.  He was one of the masters who took the blues and used the electric guitar to create this new thing.”

She adds that the other members of the Experience — bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell — were both important to Jimi’s sound as well.  “He and his band, those three musicians are three of the most revered musicians in rock and roll.”

Ultimately, his influence isn’t simply limited to guitar: “He’s a light to musicians about how to stay on your path, and stay on your journey, and how you can embrace all those mystical things about rock and roll.  I wish he was still around.  I wish he lived to 70.   What would his career have been?”

Etheridge’s latest album, 4th Street Feeling, is out now.

Brian Ives, CBS Local with additional reporting by Heather Stas

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