On September 18, 1970, in London, a codename of the Revolutionaries ’60 passed away. He was a great guitarist, a provocative showman and a unique songwriter. He was 27 years old.
Hendrix. Just like half a century ago, naming that surname still today is like summoning the paternal seal of the human container that, in just 27 years, changed the history of contemporary music. Everything that can be said to deny it (that he was a hippie, that he was a pyrotechnic guitarist, that he didn’t have a good voice, that he was a bad nigger for living off a white audience and not being committed to contemporary claims) speaks worse of the that enunciates it that the one that has left one of the most admired, consulted and fertile works of the music of the 20th century.
Once upon a time, the sonomaniac, musician, producer Brian Eno spoke of his fascination with Little Wing, the classic that Hendrix included in the album Axis: Bold as Love (1967). “It’s a fascinating, mysterious story, you don’t really know what you’re talking about. The good and bad thing about that song is that in art there are always those who can explain what they did. And he obviously couldn’t or didn’t want to. Therein lies the genius. “
Although it did not have such obvious trappings of proselytizing and religious fascination as the classic “Clapton is God” that was recorded in London while the Cream guitarist felt infinitesimal next to the left-handed colleague who sought England as his land of reinvention & redemption, Hendrix had the trajectory of a rock Messiah. Born in Seattle on November 27, 1942, his family crossed African American and native Cherokee blood. He was in the army, as a paratrooper. For years, he played guitar as an accompanist to famous rock and R&B names, such as Little Richard and The Isley Brothers, in a quiet background.
If he were a Christ, we would call his life until the moment he settles in London (1966) his Apocryphal Gospels. Because, until then, nothing foreshadowed the approaching thunderstorm. Between the model Linda Keith (girlfriend at the time of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones) and Chas Chandler (bassist of The Animals), they encouraged him to put together his own trio, made up of drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born with them or, also, the third part of the history of rock.
The miracles, the New Testament, of the musician were formed in less time than it was Jesus’ turn to carve his legend. Between 1966 and 1968, it would light three amazing albums: Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold As Love (1967) and twice Electric Ladyland (1968). There was no groove that predicted, then, the sound that he would amalgamate in those works. The point of fusion between black music (the dissipated limits of blues, jazz, soul and funk), white rock, psychedelia and, worth the expressive cliché, interplanetary harmonics. Perhaps in the founding myth of modern blues, the story of Robert Johnson and the crossroads where he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for skill and mastery to play the guitar, is the antecedent of what happened with Hendrix in England. How was it possible that an ordinary violent man was composing and playing music that seemed to have no origin, that revealed itself as if until then everything had been sounding in black and white?
Continuing with the analogy. Her Sermon on the Mount took place at the Monterey Festival (1967) and her performance was so devastating (featuring her brilliant material, covering andl Like a Rolling Stone of Bob Dylan, burning his guitar in a hitherto spontaneous sacrificial ritual) that overruled any reaction. Motionless, colleagues, public and critics were plunged into an introverted ecstasy. A silent inner tumult. A show of jaws on the floor. Anyone who has been able to question the current soloist Skay Beilinson (former guitarist of Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota) about his experience as an impressionable young man seeing Jimi Hendrix live (Royal Albert Hall, London, February 1969) got the same answer: more of the stuttering Borgeano of this exceptional guitarist, still perplexed by the information that those pointed ears and those blue eyes that determined that Marta Minujin baptized him that way. The perplexity of those who experience, at the point of volume, electricity and fire, a new mandate in their life. Other voices, other areas, all voices. A Pentecost of Rock.
Like the life of Jesus of Nazareth, Hendrix’s also ends up on the pages of the police section. Among the hypotheses of his death are the intervention of the CIA, the eagerness of a manager (Michael Jeffrey) to collect his life insurance and return money that he had borrowed from the mafia (there are even rumors that he would have confessed) and to the alleged negligence of his German girlfriend, Monica Dannermann, to call for an ambulance when she found him passed out and drowned in his own vomit. Also, it is said that attention was slower because it was a black man. On that same day, the heavy metal group Black Sabbath released their second and final album (Paranoid) that included a theme that loomed as a macabre prophecy: Electric Funeral.
The truth is that there is no testimony about his last two years of life (1969-1970) that does not indicate him as a beaten, sad man, fed up with having to respond to the expectations of a wild showman. Looking to detach from contracts and commitments. Dreaming of sharing a recording session with the man with whom he came to share a girlfriend; jazz avatar Miles Davis, Let’s name the lady, of course, the talented Betty Davis, who made a lot of great music in the ’70s. Without them, of course: one deceased and another burned & retired.
In those days, he told the English weekly Melody Maker: “Now I see miracles every day. I used to notice them once or twice a week, but some are so radical that if I explained them to one person, they would have locked me up by now. ” In the clear waters of Olympus, where the only redemption is memory, rests the soul that was once a body in James Marshall Hendrix.