Sunday, December 1, 2013

From Zero to Genius

Starting at Zero: His Own Story – Jimi Hendrix (Bloomsbury Press)

Mix an unnaturally short life with a legendary musical genius and an insatiable desire to cash in on that genius and you are bound to end up with mountains of material that is half baked and certainly not well done. Thus is the afterlife of Jimi Hendrix musical, documentary and written output; a never ending search for ways to ruthlessly repackage and sell this musical icon. It has lead to some amazing battles both legal and personal for those trying to control the Hendrix empire and has often left his fans holding the short end of the stick.

I have to give the folks who put together Starting at Zero: His Own Story by Jimi Hendrix some credit for a bit of high concept. Alan Douglas, who met Hendrix backstage at Woodstock and went on to become his producer and documentary filmmaker Peter Neal crafted this book using Henrix’ own words from countless interviews collected over the course of all-too-brief career; in a sense, giving us Hendrix story in his own words.

There is a jigsaw puzzle quality to the book as Neal, the film maker responsible for the 1967 30 minute documentary Experience, is charged with piecing together and editing the story which follows Hendrix from his early life through his time in the military and then on to musical heights.

Undoubtedly there will be cries of exploitation and cashing in from some corners but there is a sense that this carefully crafted book is a true labor of love for Douglas and Neal. While some parts will be a rehash for Hendrix diehards, overall I get the sense that they tread very lightly on the editing of things and truly left the sense and spirit of Hendrix in his own words and story.  

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