In the year before his death at the age of 27 on September 18th, 1970, Jimi Hendrix convened a new power trio called Band of Gypsys with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox—the group with whom he planned to forge a new path for his musical career. The band made their live debut at the The Fillmore East during a two-night, four-show run over New Year’s ’69-70, where they planned to record an album that would fulfill his obligations to a former manager and allow him the freedom to move forward with his music unshackled. While fans were unsure what to expect from this new-look Hendrix group, the shows were a huge success.
Concert promoter Bill Graham called the shows “The most brilliant, emotional display of virtuoso electric guitar” that he had ever heard. In total, the band performed and recorded 24 different songs, comprised of new material written by members of the group as well as unreleased Hendrix demos like “Machine Gun” and “Izabella”, but inconsistent recordings led Hendrix and engineer Wally Heider to whittle the Band of Gypsys album down to just six tracks.
After the Fillmore run, the Band of Gypsys would play just one more show at the Winter Festival For Peace in 1970 before disbanding due to Hendrix’s increasingly untenable drug abuse. By the end of that year, Hendrix had passed away. Band of Gypsys was his final record.
The performances showcased a new direction for Hendrix, with deep, improvisational explorations and notes of driving funk, R&B, and soul that would go on to influence countless artists over the ensuing decade and beyond. To this day, as new generations of music fans come of age, many wistfully wonder to what heights the revolutionary guitarist could have risen on his new trajectory had he not tragically left us so soon. Band of Gypsys stands as a brief taste of what could have been.
Below, watch the official 1999 documentary about Band of Gypsys’ storied New York run, Band of Gypsys: Live at The Fillmore East featuring footage from the shows, interviews with the band members and crew, and more.
Band of Gypsys: Live at The Fillmore East – Full Documentary
Thankfully, the four performances at The Fillmore Eastwere released by Legacy Recordings in December 2019 as Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts. Many of the recordings included in the box set had never been released, or were only previously available as part of the concert film. The newly-remixed audio of the four sets from the two shows on December 31st, 1969, and January 1st, 1970 was pulled from the original master recordings by Hendrix’s studio engineer Eddie Kramer.
Listen to the entire album via the Spotify player below.
Jimi Hendrix – Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts
Rest in peace, Jimi.