I’m the One that’s gonna have to die when its time for me to die / So let me live my life the way I want toPosted: August 12, 2011
I fell in love with Jimi Hendrix when I was 15. Besides being one of the most innovative musicians of all time, the content of his music had these dreamer qualities that really touched my soul. At the time, I was going through my first serious transitions; shaping myself into a true person; feeling emotions differently, and making decisions for myself. Of course, I’ve only really begun to make progress with those grounding transformations, but I think the process started back then in a more primitive angsty form. He was a dreamer and so was I. He spoke of the moon, castles made of sand, love-filled seas, and magic carpet rides. It all felt very free and powerful. By the age of 15 I had already grown up quite a bit. I wrote and daydreamed to hold on to my own truth and reality to survive the pains of the realities existing around me. Jimi’s music was an escape into a different reality that was so beautiful. It really appealed to me. It still appeals to me. More recently, I have begun to explore the supernatural aspects of African and Black spirituality; trying to understand a deeper aspect of my people’s culture that hasn’t completely been destroyed in the violence and exploitation of colonization. Jimi’s music references voodoo and some of these traditional African healing and harming practices. This makes sense because his music was deeply influenced by the blues, whose roots lie in the south and in African American communities that have been able to preserve some traditions. The blues has always had a spiritual aspect to it, and so does Jimi’s bluesy, melodic, rock n roll.
I often wondered if he felt alienated in the white dominated/Eurocentric music world. Black artist have always been subjected to stereotypes and marginalization in the fine arts, which is controlled and owned by rich white people. They love to appropriate ‘blackness’ by othering us. When you are a talented Black artist, who makes it in the mainstream, this othering is very alienating and bad for the spirit. I wonder if Jimi felt misunderstood in the music scenes in the US and the UK. He was such a beautiful, striking presence. Did people use him for it? Did these things lead to his tragic early death? I have felt alienated as a half-Black woman in rock n roll spaces, where there are rarely Black folks. We can get down. We know rock n roll. It came from the blues, a uniquely Black American music genre. These early blues artists and rock n roll musicians gave rock its soul; its swag. Just look at Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jimi, and their styles. There are feelings of discomfort and alienation, when you are the only person of color in a room full of white people. As a young person and lover of all music, I was trying to understand how rock fit into my identity as a Black person. Jimi was exactly what I needed.
Jimi, like no one else, shows the origins of the blues within rock n roll. His music is the psychedelic relationship of hard rock and blues, and it is so magical it overwhelms my heart at times. My long time favorite album is Axis: Bold as Love, for its softness and emotion. I have chosen the song If 6 was 9, because it represents the spookiness of the blues and rock in his music. I have recently fallen back in love with his last album, Electric Ladyland. This album demonstrated Hendrix’s talents as a producer with his use of innovative recording techniques to create new sounds. He was so scientific, constantly experimenting and re-mastering his guitar to take music to new levels. He turned the studio into an instrument; a mechanism he could study and manipulate for desired effects. The album is so dynamic with sounds that range from jazz, the blues, r&b, Brit pop, and psychedelic rock. My current favorite song at the moment is ‘Have you ever been (to Electric ladyland)’, because it really brings out the soulful qualities of his voice. I love the way he harmonizes with himself. I love the positive emphasis on love throughout the song. And for the sake of having a song from each album I also feature ‘Third Stone from the sun’ off of his first album Are You Experienced. Jimi will always be an important part of my soul, and for the thousands of other souls, who were nurtured off of his music. Enjoy.