But Covach wonders if the audience would have followed. Would people fill arenas and stadiums to hear a 70-year-old Hendrix play lengthy jazz solos? Would his albums still go platinum?
"What would probably have happened to Hendrix is he would have released a whole series of records and critics would say they're fantastic and he'd have his fans on the Internet -- but then he'd go out and do shows and do 'Purple Haze' and 'Foxy Lady,' " he says.
But if there's a notable sign that Hendrix isn't ready for the classic-rock bin -- that "People, Hell and Angels" isn't just for baby boomers reliving Woodstock -- it's in the fans. Covach observes his students are fascinated by the guitarist, and biographer Cross says his 13-year-old son is a convert.
"There forever is a new crop of young guitar players (listening)," he says. "He's a rite of passage for any guitar player."
What they learn is that Hendrix isn't just about guitar pyrotechnics. Yes, he probably would have stood out in the YouTube age, thanks to his showmanship. But the reason his music continues to thrive is beyond that image of the guitar hero. It's the space between the notes.
"For me, it's always a thrill," Kramer says. "I go into the studio and pull up a tape, and Jimi's talking to me -- at the end of a take, he's saying, 'Hey, how about that take?' And I go, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Try it again.' But it always puts the hair on the back of your head up."