Usually my blog titles involve misdirection or some sort of play on words. This time the title is to be taken quite literally. More on that in a moment.
This month PBS is featuring an American Masters special on the much revered guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix. I found it quite interesting to watch. I was too young to appreciate Jimi Hendrix when he burst upon the music scene. He had already tragically passed away when I first became aware of his music.
One of the more amusing anecdotes, one which I had often read about, was that he had been hired to open for the Monkees early in his career. This mismatch of styles led to a short lived tour for Mr. Hendrix. Imagine all those squeaky clean teeny boppers awaiting the dreamy Davy Jones and company and suddenly they are smack dab in the middle of the psychedelic onslaught of “Purple Haze” or forced to contemplate the question “Are You Experienced?”.
Even though it clearly made no sense to have the Jimi Hendrix Experience on the same bill as The Monkees, he was so amazing that everyone wanted to be associated with him. Although it didn’t work out, it might not have been as ridiculous an idea as one would think at first glance. As I stated earlier, I did not become aware of Jimi Hendrix until after his death. It was only a year or two after he had died and I pretty much thought music was groups like The Monkees, The Jackson Five, The Osmond Brothers and even The Archies and Partridge Family.
Despite this overdose of saccharin with regards to my musical tastes(oh yeah, I forgot to mention I liked Tony Orlando and Dawn quite a bit too), when I heard Jimi Hendrix on the radio I didn’t hate it. I, in fact, liked it very much. That’s part of what makes one an American Master, the ability to transcend all the boundaries of age, race, background and prior experiences to connect with your audience and move them out of their comfort zone. I know I wasn’t sure what I was listening to, but it seemed pretty cool to me.
Which brings us back to our title. We have a friend at Blast From The Past that worked for a sound company back in the 60’s and 70’s. They were well known for providing the sound mixing for many of the large outdoor rock and pop festivals. Our friend was working the New York pop festival in 1970 that featured Jimi Hendrix as one of the headliners. Mr. Hendrix and his manager had arrive by boat to the venue, but unfortunately the tide had gone out by the time the gig had ended an said boat was no longer available. So, they asked my friend and some of the sound crew if they could hitch a ride with them in their beat up station wagon. They, of course, obliged.
They all piled into the crowded vehicle and headed out. Along the way Jimi asked them to stop so he could buy some cigarettes. He had to climb over my friend to get out of the car and then realizing he had no pockets for cash, asked in a very soft voice, “Hey, man can I borrow some spare change?” My friend handed him the money and Jimi got his smokes. Two months later he died.
Though his career was incredibly short-lived, Jimi Hendrix was and still is one of the most influential artists in rock and roll history. Often true greatness is not recognized until after one’s passing. Jimi Hendrix was instantly recognized as a guitar virtuoso and singularly gifted musician and his reputation continued to grow long after his death.
Some, like myself, will probably not be recognized until long after we have turned to dust. I imagine eons may pass and earth will have colonized new worlds long before people will recognize my blog as the work of a true genius. It’s okay. I can wait.