50 Years Ago Today: The Death of Jimi Hendrix and the Birth of a Black Sabbath Staple

Why September 18 is one of the most important dates in rock history

September 18 will always be an important date in Rock history. Even more so in 2020.

The date marks the death of ostensibly the greatest guitarist of all time, but also the birth of one of the most influential rock albums of all time. This year, each occasion marks its 50th anniversary.

Jimi Hendrix passed away on September 18, 1970. On the same date, Black Sabbath released their landmark album Paranoid featuring tracks like “Iron Man” and “War Pigs.”

While the two occasions yield vastly different emotions, it’s important to recognize each of them.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a guitarist out there that Jimi Hendrix didn’t impact. Hendrix had the unmatched ability to deliver raw emotion just using his guitar. From the cry of war in “Machine Gun,” to the psychedelic bliss in “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” to the soul-touching blues in “Wind Cries Mary,” Hendrix let his guitar do the talking.

His guitar work was not only masterful, it was innovating. As you listen to Jimi’s studio albums, you can hear the progression of how he uses the guitar to craft different soundscapes. From utilizing tape loops, reversing his guitar, and layering sound on sound on sound, he continued to push the boundary and served as an inspiration to others to do the same.

Even more incredible, he was doing all this with the limited recording technologies that were available in the late 1960’s. One has to wonder what he would have accomplished today if he had modern technology at his disposal.

Ask any heavy metal musician what their first exposure to the genre was and chances are the Black Sabbath album Paranoid will be a common answer. While they weren’t the first heavy metal band, they were one of the first heavy metal superstars and this album is a big reason why.

“Iron Man” and “War Pigs” stand out as the record’s two most famous songs, but up and down the entire album encapsulates heavy metal. No filler tracks. All rock.

Tommy Iommi’s powerful guitar work, Geezer Butler’s brash drums, Ozzy Osbourne’s shrieking howls, and Bill Ward’s sonic bass all served as an inspiration and created a sound few have heard before.

The record was named the greatest metal album of all time by Rolling Stone and came in at number 131 on the publication’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Due to the success of the record, the band embarked on their first tour of the US just weeks after its release in 1970.

An album that’s stood the test of time, it continues to inspire musicians to this day.

While September 18 is notable for two very different reasons, it remains one of the most important dates in rock & roll.

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