A new Life during quarantine playlist finds Nick Triani writing about the legacy and influence of Jimi Hendrix.
Random thoughts. On Friday I woke up after dreaming of Jimi Hendrix, specifically a Hendrix movie. I realised I had the same feeling watching John Ridley‘s weak Jimi Henrdix biopic All Is by My Side as I did watching Oliver Stone‘s ludicrous yet entertaining The Doors movie. Both films managed to miss the essence of what made the two Jims, Hendrix and Morrison, so interesting. What a dream!
Any fascination in watching these movies comes from following the ensuing cinema car-crash unfold. At least Stone was brazenly over the top with obvious fake beards, shamanistic ideology and appropriation, off-kilter period detail and dollops of unnecessary nudity. Ridley’s film is way too dour and without being able to use any of Hendrix’s recorded music, ultimately misses the core of the attraction.
Of course, Hendrix’s standing is very strange in this post-modern era. Yes, it’s acknowledged he was the greatest rock guitarist ever, but much of the druggy, free-love ideology of Hendrix’s time seems woefully out of sync with 2020, therefore diminishing his influence. Allegations of domestic abuse haven’t helped the Hendrix mythology either, yet similar white artists accused of the same or worse seem to be unscathed by such history (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Lennon etc). Even Hendrix’s Fender Strat guitar tone seems to be out of vogue.
And that’s the thing to remember, outside of Arthur Lee, Hendrix was the sole black rock icon of the 1960’s boom. Stories about his extraordinary large hands, troubled family background, breaking into the London live scene, that onstage showdown with The Who, the hour-long anguish of noise he performed live the night of Martin Luther King‘s murder, being the highest paid live performer of the late 1960s, Hendrix standing as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, seem to be an afterthought. Then there’s the records.
‘Driving South,’ a BBC session cut found on this week’s playlist should remind us that the gentle yet troubled soul of Henrdix could diminish the guitar opposition even with an off- the-cuff jam. Further out of context, Hendrix’s excellence opened up the premise of Black music to a white rock audience. You could surmise that Hendrix wasn’t the greatest songwriter, but again, that is a slur, there are many examples of great songwriting in his catalog. But his core musicality and main influence were the blues; the riff, the expression and that singular sadness. Hendrix remains the unquestioned and unrivalled king of making noise with an electric guitar, his expression still far ahead of the game.
Nick Triani is an editor and contributor to One Quart Magazine.