I’m spending this week with the ghost of Jimi Hendrix. Last night I watched 4 movies on him (my eyes are getting a bit bonky) and spent even more time on You Tube trying to find audio that shows the man behind the image.
The audio I’m reviewing is for a short radio documentary on Jimi for my current KEXP Documentary series Death, Drugs and Rock n Roll. The whole series is about artists who lived the rock lifestyle. But in true KEXP style — where we have great reverence for the musicians — these features are focused in on the person behind the image. My first three docs in this series were on Marc Bolan (from T Rex), Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. You can listen to them here.
In a way this series scares me because I have to look at my own feelings about death and the finite time we have on this planet. I have to be vulnerable on the mic in order to really show the depth of this subject. This is a new approach for me. This series also inspires me because it makes clear that every day is so very precious, and you never know when this world will be taken from you.
Jimi Hendrix’s career spanned only four years. And he released only four studio albums in his lifetime. My favorites are Electric Ladyland and this one Axis: Bold as Love because they both show the soft side of Jimi. The Jimi most people haven’t seen. And Axis: Bold As Love, more than any other Jimi album, shows his musical influences in songs that range from jazzy to bluesy, from edgy to warm, from psychedelic to stripped-down.
One time in particular, this record saved me. I was living the winter in Seward, Alaska, and my boyfriend, the love of my life, and I had just broken up. I had hightailed it to my dad’s house and had nothing with me except the clothes on my back and a few CDs I had loaned to a friend. It was probably the time in my life when my heart was most broken, and this album felt like medicine, like home. I could tell from the songs that Jimi had the same problems in his life. He understood. I slipped into this record like a comfy bed that was made up just for me. I rested there and started to heal.
In researching Jimi for this series, I’m wading through miles of audio on his guitar technique. But who is Jimi, really? I think this interview with Dick Cavett shows the humbleness of this man, his sense of humor and his deep connection to all things.
When you hear songs like “Wait Until Tomorrow”, “Castles Made of Sand” and “Little Wing” from this album, you can hear Jimi’s acceptance of his fate. The way he turns each grain of sand to look at the many facets of it sparkling in the sunlight. It is this man I hope to portray in this documentary. It airs Thursday at 3pm. Wish me luck!!