“Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, The Untold Story of a Musical Genius”
Author: Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber
The cheers and chants were just for you.
When the music started and you stepped onto the pretend stage, the imaginary crowd went wild.
Make-believe spotlights shone on your fingers, moving quickly as you picked a song on your air guitar—your specialty—and you were famous.
In your own head, anyway.
If only you could be like Jimi. But as you’ll see in the new book “Becoming Jimi Hendrix” by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber (c.2010, Da Capo Press. $17.95/$22 Canada. 288 pages) being Jimi wasn’t always that great.
Born while his (presumed) biological father, Al, was in the military, James Marshall Hendrix was originally named Johnny, after his mother’s pimp. Following an ultimately-failed reconciliation with his wife, Al divorced her and, in 1951, collected his two eldest sons and left. Life was a constant struggle. Jimi took responsibility for his brother, and the two regularly scrounged or stole meals.
As a child, Jimi loved guitars and was so desperate for one of his own that, in elementary school, he carried a broom with him, and pretended. He made instruments from scraps and wire until he finally got his first real guitar, an acoustic one, for the small price of five dollars. He slept with it across his chest, just like he would with other guitars in the future.
Although he was shy, girls loved Jimi, but not even a steady girlfriend kept him out of trouble.
Caught in a “crime wave,” he was given the choice between jail and military service. Choosing the latter, Jimi left his hometown of Seattle and eventually landed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
There, his life changed.
The military wasn’t a good fit for Jimi, and he lasted barely a year, but living in Kentucky brought him closer to Nashville and the south, home of R & B and other up-and-coming musicians. Jimi gained a reputation for being a good guitarist, but he couldn’t keep a job.
And yet, while working with big-name groups and unknowns, Jimi honed his skills. He learned to play the guitar upside down, backwards, with his teeth, or behind his back. By the time he died at age 27, he was hailed as the greatest guitarist in rock history.
If you’re looking for a chatty biography on Jimi Hendrix, look elsewhere. “Becoming Jimi Hendrix” almost strictly lives up to its title, methodically explaining Hendrix’s path from poverty to “musical genius,” including an extensive section on concerts, discography, and other minutiae.
That means that there aren’t a lot of anecdotes that don’t explain his career.
But those few anecdotes, I thought, were the most intriguing parts of this book. The authors tease readers with brief snippets of Jimi’s personal life. Then they hint about the true circumstances of his death.
Forty years have passed since that death, and if you’re a music fan or love the guitar, you just can’t miss this book. For you, “Becoming Jimi Hendrix” is one to pick.
You probably say that a dozen times a day. There are many things you want to share with your Mom; things you’re doing and things you notice around you. Maybe it’s pretty, maybe it’s cool, or maybe it’s something very exciting.
Although he gave only seven short years to his professional musical career, Jimi Hendrix, renamed James Marshall Hendrix by his father Al, had an impact that has lasted well beyond his untimely death at age 27. Forty years later, his achievements as a pioneering master of the electric guitar—including his innovative style of combining fuzz, feedback and controlled distortion which created a new musical form—still shine.
At least one performer fell hard for Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards.
Not sure what that means? Well, check out the top five moments from Sunday night’s 2013 Billboard Music Awards:
1. Miguel lands on a fan
Truthfully, the bad news came as no surprise.
Your Mom hadn’t been feeling well lately, and for weeks you’d heard your parents whispering. You knew she was having some tests done. Still, when they finally told you she had cancer, you couldn’t believe it. You cried for 20 minutes, ran out of the house, kicked the door, or just quietly went to your room to think.
The song always pops up when you least expect it.
There you are, minding your own business, you hear a few notes, and you’re pulled back to a wonderful-horrible time, starry dreams, laughter, bitterness, love lost. That old love song might be just a “precious melody,” but it almost brings you to your knees.