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"Nowadays people don't want you to sing good. They want you to sing sloppy and have a good beat to your songs. That's what angle--I'm going to shoot for. That's where the money is." /// "It's a very primitive thought, you know. That's why I like us being called the Experience." /// "I would under no circumstances call my music psychedelic." /// "The idea of playing with my teeth came to me in a town in Tennessee. Down there you have to play with your teeth or else you get shot!" /// "I'm not here to destroy anything. You've still got The Beach Boys and The Four Seasons to hang on to." /// "I guess I could do without people." /// "I want to be the first man to write about the blues on Venus." /// "Now that is what the world is about. Having kids. Like planting flowers." /// "I like to watch the lightning." Jimi Hendrix--from the book.
Hendrix fans will have to make up their own minds concerning this book. Is it just another exploitative cash-in using Hendrix' name? Or is it a well meaning look at, "a poetic memoir" of his life "in his own words". The book is broken into chronological chapters--beginning with "Voodoo Child (November 1942-July 1962)", and ending with "Nine To The Universe (February 1970- September 1970)". Each chapter has a full page pen and ink drawing of Hendrix roughly connected with that chapter's time period. There's also different styles and sizes of fonts used throughout the book which adds visual interest. There's no Index. The book ranges from four "stars" (for me) because Hendrix' life story is so well known, to maybe five "stars" for the use of Hendrix' own words to tell his story for any fans who like this narrative format. The book "Hendrix On Hendrix", which collects many important interviews with Hendrix, comes to mind--but this book uses a narrative form to tell the story.
The various sources of Hendrix quotes come mainly from interviews, poems, song lyrics, diaries, and quotes from Hendrix on stage between songs. The book was edited into form by Peter Neal, a documentary film maker, who in 1967-68 made a short film on Hendrix. The book evolved from a new film about Hendrix that Neal and Alan Douglas were working on. Douglas will be remembered as the producer of several posthumous Hendrix albums which were controversial. Neal put the various sources into narrative form and "...occasionally combined sentences or changed grammar...to clarify the meaning." He also included brief notes of his own throughout to help continuity, and/or give essential background information for better clarity. The book begins very early in Hendrix' life and ends approximately four years (Neal says that Hendrix never gave a clear account of those last years) before his death.
The form of the book does give an extended look at Hendrix' life (including family, concerts, albums, songs, musicians, music, racism, people in general, etc.) using his own words. And while his life story is well known to fans, as far as I know, this is the first book on his life in Hendrix' own words taken from many different sources and collected into a memoir. And by combining these sources into narrative form, the reader gets not only a look inside Hendrix' life, but also (and maybe most importantly) a chance to experience his rhythmic word patterns and the imagery his words and phrases conjure up. Plus, as the book progresses the story changes from focusing primarily on Hendrix' life, into something closer to an inner journey about Hendrix himself ("...if I don't have anything to communicate through my music, then there is nothing for me to live for"), his music ("I want to be a part of a big new musical expansion."), and the future ("You have to die before they think you are worth anything. When I die, just keep playing the records.").
And perhaps it's that focus on Hendrix' "inner life" that is the real crux of this book. Fans have heard Hendrix allude and/or speak directly to his personal thoughts on different areas of his life and music before. But this book collects those thoughts from those relatively few years of his life, and places then in context and in juxtaposition to the "nuts and bolts" information of Hendrix' life. And it's these thoughts, ideas, and impressions--in Hendrix' own words--that give the reader a feeling of being much closer to Hendrix--at times as if he was chatting with you in unguarded moments, and with candor and sometimes humor.
Hendrix fans/collectors will probably want this book "by Hendrix". Those less familiar with his life will still want to read another one of the books on Hendrix' life and music. But in the end this book is an interesting look at Hendrix' life and his thoughts on a variety of subjects. And having all of it in his own words, placed in narrative form, adds a curious depth not found in other books which may use some of the same quotes in a sometimes different context. Give this book a more than cursory look and see if it does expose Hendrix from a slightly different angle. But I still get an uneasy exploitative feeling about this book, no matter how interesting it sometimes is. People will have to make up their own minds. "I like to consider myself timeless. After all, it's not how long you've been around or how old you are that matters. It's how many miles you've traveled." Jimi Hendrix.