Jimi Hendrix, 70 Today & His Spirit Lives On

In honor of Jimi Hendrix‘s Birthday I’d like to share with you all an excerpt from a book I am reading on his life titled, Hendrix: Setting The Record Straight By John McDermott.  This book illustrates beautifully the facts, and the message in the sound he spent his life perfecting and innovating.

        “Through his music, Hendrix attempted to break barriers between styles and, ultimately, between races. His personal vision seemed oblique, marbled within his poetic compositions. He neither claimed nor 

envisioned himself as someone to whom young African Americans (Or native Americans for that matter) could look to as a leader. Chandler, Redding, Kramer, Stickells, Levine and a number of close associates all testify that Hendrix didn’t have a political bone in his body. In private conversations, her would articulate universal, rather than specific solutions. He could, for example, relate to the Black Panthers’ attempts to improve the quality of life for black people, yet he abhorred their violent tactics. While a great number of his fans opposed the war in Vietnam, Hendrix struggled with the human toll of war, casting the politics aside. In his own, often obtuse way, Hendrix would dedicate versions of  “I don’t live today” and, later, “Machine Gun” not only to the soldiers in Vietnam but to ” all the soldiers fighting in Chicago, Milwaukee, New York…” Chandler recalls the rapport Hendrix had with fellow servicemen he would meet on his travels. With those who had shared his personal experience in the military, he could express his relief at having served before Vietnam, yet he remained a realist who recognized that, for blacks, the various branches of the military represented one of few opportunities available to them to better their lives.

       The colorful prose Hendrix invoked to stymie straight journalists fostered a perception that he was eithercompletely out of touch with reality, or perhaps thoroughly manipulated by his all-white management. In actuality, the situation was far more intricate. The paucity of black faces at his concerts was distressing, but so were the demands by fans to see him smash and burn his instrument. Far more sensitive and insightful than his audience ever knew, Hendrix possessed a grand design for his music, stressing its positive potential to help change society. Deeply spiritual, Hendrix felt music could heal and bring races together. Through interviews, Hendrix, in his own inimitable fashion expressed concepts, such as his preference for performing outdoors, where he felt his music best combatted the tension and strife between people of all races. As Chandler testifies, Hendrix was far from naive, understanding that music and politics were a very tricky mix, where one continually ran the risk of being used and having the message cheapened.

Here is a short interview of him that really shows his true nature:

Hendrix would make his songs from poems he wrote, he once said that his favorite poet was E.E. Cummings. 

a man who had fallen among thieves by E. E. Cummings

a man who had fallen among thieves
lay by the roadside on his back
dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
wearing a round jeer for a hat

fate per a somewhat more than less
emancipated evening
had in return for consciousness
endowed him with a changeless grin

whereon a dozen staunch and Meal
citizens did graze at pause
then fired by hypercivic zeal
sought newer pastures or because

swaddled with a frozen brook
of pinkest vomit out of eyes
which noticed nobody he looked
as if he did not care to rise

one hand did nothing on the vest
its wideflung friend clenched weakly dirt
while the mute trouserfly confessed
a button solemnly inert.

Brushing from whom the stiffened puke
i put him all into my arms
and staggered banged with terror through
a million billion trillion stars

Happy Birthday Jimi, Your Spirit Lives Within The Lives You Have Shook Up With Your Rock And Roll!


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