'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child by David Henderson (Paperback 2009)
It is very rarely that I have given a rock biography a serious read over, most in my opinion are written with a fourth grade vocabulary because the editors assume that the readership inclined to buy their garbage never finished grade school. Why bother reading another hundred pages of crap that could have just as easily been photo tags from old Hit Parader and Circus magazine articles. Also if I really like the artist, I am looking for more than their fashion sense and how many chicks they bang while on a six day binge...in the case of Jimi Hendrix, this point cannot be more true. Yet, with all such hesitations in mind, I took a chance that there might be some grace left in the world of rock and roll journalism - and in this book I can finally say that some justice was done to the legacy that was James Marshall Hendrix.
"Most reviews of this book do not understand what David Henderson is up to. Henderson is an artist in his own right and his biography of Hendrix is a great read. Henderson is an artist forged in the same cultural milieu as Hendrix. Henderson was an important figure in the Black Arts Movement and he is working in the New Journalism tradition (Hunter Thompson, Thomas Wolf etc.) so don't expect generic writing and a presentation of "facts." This is a poetic biography and it brings Hendrix to life. If you are put off by "slang" and are appalled by any deviation from the New York Times Style Sheet you should probably skip this book, but if you want to spend some time digging Jimi, his triumphs and tragedy you should get this book. If you were not at Monterey Pop, or Woodstock, or the Berkley Community Theater in 1970 when Hendrix dedicated the show to the Black Panther Party, you should get this book-- it is the next best thing to being there. " - Keith , an Amazon reviewer.
"The New Journalism began on the Lower East Side in the mid-sixties when poets and fiction writers became reporters for The East Village Other, mother of the Underground Press. David Henderson was one of the pioneers of the style. He combines his gifts as a poet and a reporter in 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, and the result is a rewarding and unique reading experience. It is part thriller and part lament for some tragic lives who enlivened an exciting decade." - Ishmael Reed.
"No one who wants to assemble a coherent version of Jimi's story can afford to be without this book -- it is not only the best version, it is the only complete one." - Dave Marsh, author of Born to Run.
Not to worry, yes Henderson brings his journalistic artistry to the table...but never does he forget who is really buying this book in numbers off the shelves; musicians, in particualr guitarists and bassists for whom The Experience as the trio is still one of the most formidable teams assembled in the history of modern music. It is amazing the amount of detail gone into regarding Hendrix's off stage jam sessions, private time trading licks with other guitarists, and his spiritual beliefs and how he personally saw them as part of his core as an artist.
A few of my favorite examples from the pages of personal dialogue are : A private jam session between Eric Clapton and Jimi where Hendrix let's Clapton know he doesn't really like him much for an English bloke by repetatively playing machine gun sounds endlessly (until Clapton reluctantly is forced to leave without any explanation), Jimi explains in detial how Axis Bold as Love is inspired by the writings of Freemason Manly P. Hall who wrote about the Earth's axis being a focal point for the macrocosmic world - and how Jimi had a visionary leap of understanding that the needle on a record player is a transmission device for the Axis of anyone who records their music on vynil ( trust me that one is worth the read, and is more coherrant than it may sound in brief ), details about the actual construction of Jimi's arsenal of inverted guitars that any guitarist will find fascinating enough to screw up their own perfectly working axes after a read through, of course many pages dealing with Jimi and the Black Panther movement - whom he basically let's know that he would support as a black artist if they would just loosen their rules about use of drugs (especially Jimi's later favorite Heroin), and the breaking up of The Experience as Jimi spends his last years in England post Woodstock.
Also included are many never before published poems and lyrics in their uneditied forms, like this one that Jimi wrote about and for the audience as he watched from the stage side at Woodstock on the morning of his 'Star Spangled Banner' performance :
outshined the mud and history
We washed and drank in God's tears of joy
And for once...and for everyone...
the truth was not a mystery -
Love called to all...music is magic
As we passed over and beyond the walls of nay
Hand in hand as we lived and
made real the dreams of peaceful men -
We came together...Danced with
the pearls of rainy weather
Riding the waves of music and
Space - music is magic....
Magic is life....
Love as never loved before....
Harmony to son and daughter...man and wife"
- J. Hendrix on pg. 433
I cannot give high enough praises for this biography of a bright and brilliant rockstar, and kudos to Henderson for handling the task with intelligence, respect, and where necessary brutal honesty about a great American artist - who was also a talented but damaged soul. I think even Jimi would have given Kiss the Sky his seal of approval. Hopefully Jimi comes back as a merman and makes sure we "...never have to hear surf music again...."
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