Are You Experienced?

Lefty Hendrix
Never Left Us

The world is remembering Jimi Hendrix, who died in London 40 years ago yesterday. To mark the date, there’s a new anthology out and a documentary of his life and music. Bob Smeaton’s “Voodoo Child” uses his own words as a narrative thread and never before seen film footage, recordings, private letters and family pictures to tell his story.
The four-CD “West Coast Seattle Boy” covers his brief but incendiary career through previously unreleased tracks and alternate versions of his classics. It traces his transformation from a sideman to the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and other greats of the era, to a trailblazer whose talent still casts a shadow on new generations.
It’s anyone’s guess what could’ve accomplished so far the arguably greatest ever electric guitar player, had he lived a bit longer. Friends and peers have pointed that at that time, Hendrix and the context of rock music he largely redefined at the end of the 1960s, were already transitioning to a more elaborated and less spontaneous phase of expression.
Many of the gifted, contemporary musicians of the time, had already left their most creative periods behind them. By 1970, it was clear that Hendrix was far ahead of the field and, as an unwanted byproduct of his increasing brilliance, fewer players were on the same level of his artistry, for him to be able to bounce ideas with. When he ran out of time, most were still playing catch up with the scope of his creative genius.
The 40 years gap haven’t been a complete bliss either to understand his talent. A dispute between his family and the various recording companies that owned his artistic output, only recently settled, prevented a continuous exposure of his art to new generations during this time.
And, of course, the lack of an authoritative performer such as the man himself, to be able to present his songs in an optimal way, didn’t help it either. In fact, for a while very few musicians dared to perform and record Hendrix songs and that somewhat hurt his legacy.
Fortunately, though, nothing was enough to rob that same legacy from its transcendency. What’s been said about many an extraordinary artist who died at his or her prime, holds truthful to him too: his early departure immediately imprinted popular culture with the indelible mark of his talent.
Granted, even in death, he had to survive the hollow rhetoric of the “tragedy of drugs” ink, nothing short of a kind of character assassination that also almost obscured the greatness of a Janis Joplin, a Jim Morrison and so many others. He’s not just survived that and other indignities; he also transcended many other phony myths the backlash against the 60s ensued and could’ve tagged him with, given a chance.
So maybe this time around he’ll parachute at the heart of popular culture as a blast of innovation and fresh air, not as the all-consuming tail of a comet that ever so brief zipped across the zenith. It’d certainly be a better metaphor to a southpaw who carved a noisy, distorted, vital path of sound we didn’t even know we needed.

One thought on “Are You Experienced?

  1. Luiz Peixe says:

    How much for this foxy Box?

    Like

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