english by thorsten ramin
Overture: First Approaching
It wasn’t until I was almost 40, after years of classic guitar I tried to play the electric one. At that time I adored Stevie Ray Vaughan; Hendrix, the weasel and timelessly gum-smacking, furthermore with mouth agape, was rather less interesting for me. I was thrilled by Vaughans interpretation of Hendrix‘ »Little Wing«. The more I tried it myself, the more complicated and thrilling it became.
Then I examined the original and everything worsened. Again and again I found new, fascinating details and I was baffled by this cosmos of only 2 min and 26 secs. Since then I was an ardent fan of Hendrix and lined up with the group of his admirers who typically are of white skin, male gender, with regular income and middle class.
Did I personally like him? I don’t know to this day. To engage in him, the longer it takes the more exciting it is. For me that is an indication for great art: All the time you come closer, you get new answers – and, if you want it or not, even about who you are und who you are not.
One Life – one bag:
frozen solid, pried loose, frozen again
“Jimi Hendrix”, the guitar god, is born November 27. 1942 in Seattle and dies September 18. 1970 in Kensington, a quarter of hippies and artists in the west of London. After his revelation in 1967 he only has barely four years left to accomplish, what will be his legacy for us. Thus has he dies too young, like others member of club 27,Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain or perhaps Amy Winehouse? And what about that number? Randy Rhoads, possibly perchance the most gifted electric guitar player right after Hendrix, died at age 25. Is he therefore less worth for not reaching the magic age for joining the club? Or as Hendrix expressed it himself: »It’s already odd the way people love the dead. Once you’re dead, you made it.« Why doesn’t anybody ask: What for and how has Hendrix kept a stiff upper lip for so long?
Hence he is born in Seattle, one of the largest cities in America’s north-west, with a tiny black population, and that means little experience for Hendrix concerning racism and segregation.
His mother Lucille (1925 – 1958) is aged 17 when he is born, his father Al (1919 – 2002) will only return three years later from World War II, is devoted to alcohol and canes the sons Leon and James regularly (the women in the neighborhood and in the family help where they can).
Later Hendrix abortively leaves College and joins the army to avoid prison for carjacking, becomes acquainted to the bass player Billy Cox, one of the few real confidents in the late days, and is dismissed after being injured (and for the lack temperamental aptitude) in 1962.
Music is by far the greatest for him: Subsequently until 1964 he will slog through in the bands of black musicians like Curtis Mayfield, Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke or Jackie Wilson (he will never play with Ike and Tina Turner, but he accomplished the opening act for the Turners in the band of Little Richard on February 21, 1965) Little Richard approaches him not musically: He will learn aside from that about stage presence (and will bear a similar moustache for pretty long time). Only the employment with ISLEY BROTHERS will be somewhat enjoying, but eventually Hendrix will be bored for repeating always the same.
An own career in view Hendrix moves to New York, first to Harlem, then to the hatchery of Greenwich Village where he launches his first band JIMMY JAMES AND THE BLUE FLAMES, (still he’s afraid of singing). In the summer is the indigent and almost famished musician is discovered by Linda Keith and recommends him to the bass player of the ANIMALS, Bryan »Chas« Chandler (1938 – 1996), who wants to enter the agent business: Chandler is enthusiastic, brings Hendrix to London for beating up the scene there, imports him back to America – and an unprecedented career commences. Hendrix‘ Trio THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass and between 1966 and 1969 makes music history. Three gigs are most important: In London he plays shortly after arriving as somebody who’s completely unknown with the newly founded CREAM and therefore against an equally very young Eric Clapton. In Monterey he will establish his career in America in June 1967 , with the help of Giants like Paul McCartney or the ROLLING STONE Brian Jones (a picture of him kneeling in front of a burning guitar will go around the world). And 1969 in Woodstock and due to the Woodstock film he will ultimately become an iconic figure of an emerging generation.
He will particularly be promoted and accompanied by three (white) men: Chas Chandler as manager for some time, who literally risks everything for Hendrix, Roger Mayer as an electronic and effect nerd and Eddie Kramer as one of the most inventive and bold sound engineers of the time. And three (white) women are to be mentioned: Linda Keith, who as I have told actually discovered him, Kathy Etchingham, who does not only promote him in his time in London, and Monika Dannemann, who is involved in the mysterious death of the guitar player.
After four officially published albums and about 525 concerts Hendrix dies in London under circumstances unresolved to the day. And yet Hendrix is hard to grasp, moved between excesses like being a high-tech studio man and intuitive improviser, patriot and rebel, pacifist and soldier, between shy/affectionate und harsh/thuggish/cynical, ugly and beautiful, masculine and feminine, impoverished and wealthy, poignant/irresponsibly-simple-minded, up to all the dodges, astonishing generous and intangible stingy, first of all and since him no one ever again: between mainstream and vanguard. That makes it easy to piece together your own Hendrix from contradicting witness reports and shreds of interviews (it’s interesting to work one’s way through Steven Roby’s clearly compiled and documented HENDRIX on HENDRIX and to keep in mind which parts of which interview meanwhile became independent as base of a myth).
One thing might help to get a feeling of Hendrix as a person: From 1967 to his death he carries around a giveaway of the airline Pan Am with himself, a small blue travel bag, for having the important stuff immediately at hand. In this bag there are: A paternity suit from Diane Carpenter (Hendrix lived with the 16-year-old girl for some time in Harlem, she was drug-addicted and went on the game, he shall have her beaten with a belt; her address to court for a subsequent approval of her child won’t be successful even after Hendrix death), four keys for an apartment in New York, a Dylan songbook, a copy of 29 pages from Khalil Gilbran’s The Prophet bound between decorated wooden covers, his last flight ticket from London to New York, a guarantee bond for not being imprisoned on entering Canada, coins of foreign valuta, some handsome old glass phials in a leather case and contracts with managers and concert promoters. Every of these last objects represents a facet of Hendrix.