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Ten Observations Regarding Jimi Hendrix

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Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, 40 years ago this September 18. He'd been an internationally known rock musician for four years, which is a longer amount of time than Kurt Cobain and a shorter term than Jim Morrison. Yet all three can sell T-shirts, posters and other memorabilia many times over their brief period in the limelight. Imagine if James Dean ever had a band. Does anyone know why people insist on wearing Che Guevara T-Shirts? I mean, his band was so derivative.

But unlike other rock celebrities who either embraced or railed against fame, Jimi Hendrix went along for the ride and spent as much time in the recording studio recording music as he could. It beat talking to people. Especially all the stoned ones who hung around the Hendrix camp.

In death, this has led to mass confusion. If his short career was mismanaged and filled with confusion then his posthumous career has been a legal team's dream and a family's nightmare. "Experience Hendrix" was founded by Jimi's dad, James "Al" Hendrix, in 1995 and they've helped keep the confusion alive by removing certain albums and releasing others with different backing tracks.

But it's a testament to Hendrix himself that no matter how many overdubs you add or remove it still sounds like Hendrix in the end. Besides, is it more important to have the artifact that was never finished or an album you can listen to without having to make excuses for why someone is humming?

March 9, 2010 is the scheduled release date of Valleys Of Neptune, a twelve-track album of previously unreleased recordings made after Hendrix had completed his final studio album, Electric Ladyland, except for "Mr. Bad Luck," which was recorded during the Axis: Bold As Love sessions and features additional bass and drum recordings from June 5, 1987. The album's closing track, "Crying Blue Rain," also features the same additions from June 5, 1987.

Oh well. In an attempt to bring everybody under the BIG TENT, how about ten observations that we can all agree on?

10) He Played The Electric Guitar: Well, it's true. I may be understating the case, since I know many people who can't even play a correct chord who consider themselves a guitar player. Hendrix wasn't one of those. He was one of the others.

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9) He Recorded Three Studio Albums While Alive: Considering all the options out there, it's difficult to realize that only Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland were studio albums recorded and released while Hendrix was alive and able to give his final OK. Everything else is guesswork, period.

8) He Burned His Guitar Onstage: Watch the tape from the Monterey Pop Festival and there he is burning his guitar. I'm not sure why this seems relevant, but along with the Who, who smashed up their equipment at the same festival, it was as if the music wasn't enough. If the Association or Simon and Garfunkel had been aware of this upping of the theatrical ante maybe they would've had one of their members killed as a human sacrifice. In which case, who wins Simon or Garfunkel? Rock music is dangerous, kids!

7) He Could Write A Damn Fine Ballad: For all the pyrotechnics and phase-shifting wah-wah heaven, Hendrix knew how to dial down as "The Wind Cries Mary," "Little Wing," "Castles Made Of Sand" and the posthumous "Drifting" bear out. He was better than James Taylor by accident.

6) The Recordings He Left Behind Have Made Things Extremely Confusing: Ask any Hendrix fan about albums such as Crash Landing, War Heroes or In The West and the explanations get pretty convoluted. Yes, there are great moments but...It's made being a true Jimi Hendrix fan a full time job and a full-time nightmare. In this case, I take three. Three pills? Well, yes.

5) Owning The Rights To His Material Doesn't Always Mean Owning The Rights: You know that saying that wherever there's a will there's a relative? Well, wherever there's real money involved, there's someone who claims to own the rights to something they have no business pretending to own. As that other saying goes, Money changes everything. It's made some people actually like Donald Trump enough to allegedly have sex with him.

4) He Never Witnessed His Artistic Decline: It would've happened. Anyone who lives to old age and still continues to do what they love will eventually face the point of lower returns. Or at least hit a rut or two. If there is any silver lining in living a short life besides paying less taxes, it is probably the fact that you don't have to watch yourself become progressively worse at anything. Unless you're a late-bloomer like me and intend on being "less horrible" as time goes on.

3) He Could Replicate It Live: In this age of auto-tune, Jimi Hendrix managed to do it with his teeth, behind his back and half-asleep. In fact, some of what are considered to be his "sloppiest" shows are among his most ingenious. Listen kids, he's playing a police radio with his butt!

2) He Died A Typical Tragic Rock Death: The fact that there are still conspiracy theories over who wanted Hendrix dead, how he actually died and the idea that he wasn't even close to thirty make for a great movie (where is it, Oliver Stone?), a great legacy and a sad, tragic life. And Postal Workers think they have it bad?

1) He Was A Genius: These days someone comes up with a way of getting themselves on television without actually doing anything of importance and it's described as "genius." Obviously, we've become a bit lax in our definitions. But if we apply the old standard, I say Hendrix makes the grade while the guy who pioneered Real Estate With No Money Down does not.

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