I Wish I Had Been Born An African-American Music Genius
My Ultimate Role Model: Jimi Hendrix, Guitar god
Three of Jimi Hendrix (Experience) Best-Selling Albums
Sincerely Dedicated to Families, Friends, fans of Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, as a personal gesture and tribute to their musical genius and talents. (a friend, Kenneth).
In 1970, I was in the 10th grade. I had sat down in my Algebra I class which I hated, and said, what was later said to be, one of the most-profound things to ever leave my mouth, "I wish I had been born black."
The recipient of this one-time, allegedly-wise statement was none other than my good buddy and fellow rocker, Kenneth Stone. He and I had been discussing Alvin Lee and his group, Ten Years After and other acts such as Hendrix, Clapton and Led Zeppelin which prompted me to make my bold statement of 'wishing I been born black.' I wasn't sorry then that I made this statement. Nor am I the least bit sorry today in 2012.
About my buddy, Kenneth? When the words of my statement entered his ears, his face color went from a natural pink-toned, to red, then white and then back to pink and all the while he was fighting to get his breath from laughing at me. I don't know why he laughed. I was dead-set on my teenage wish of being born black.
I use the term, 'black,' out of sheer-respect and honesty, because back then, our brothers and sisters in high school asked us respectfully to call them 'black,' so we obliged. Personally, "I" had no problem with black people since my mom and dad had raised me in a non-prejudiced home and forbad me from using the vulgar, hated "n" word as our white neighbors did so fluidly.
To me, idolizing such a musical genius and guitar god as Jimi Hendrix was not that unusual, but then again, "I" was never called "normal," or "usual." I loved, and I mean thrived on the fiber of life whenever I heard one of Jimi's rocking songs. I became instantly out-of-body with myself. Into another dimension. But I am not the only one who shared this "experience," for Hendrix had throngs of fans and followers who hung on his every word and chord.
But there I was in 1970, in the tenth grade hating a subject that I "had" to take in order to graduate in 1972, with my heart not on Algebra, but hurrying home to my stereo and turning on "Purple Haze," "Wild Child," "Crosstown Traffic," and "Hey, Joe," all Hendrix songs and all I had almost memorized. I loved getting home from school in the afternoons for I had two whole hours to myself thanks to both my parents holding down their jobs. Just Jimi and me. Who needs the tenth grade anyway? I certainly did not.
Recalling my previous, somewhat wishful thinking of being born black, well why not, I ask you. Why couldn't "I" dream of storming a stage somewhere in Topeka, Kansas with my Fender Stratocaster on my shoulder screaming the lyrics to "Fire," to my screaming fans? I cannot find any rule, either in philosophy or Holy Scriptures that is against "me" dreaming of being a black rock guitarist or even a blues legend like Muddy Waters. Either would have been great to me. No argument with God from my lips. No sir. Gimme a juke joint in Chicago on the south side and turn me loose with "Got My Mojo Working," or "My Starter Won't Start This Morning," a cigarette, a warm beer and shades and I'm a happy man. Yes, sir. No sweat.
But sadly, as you well know, and I know, since I am a Caucasian, a white man, things didn't work out for me like that. I feel as if "I were cheated when and whereever the decision was made by God and His angels, to send my soul into a white boy's boy and be raised in a white couple's home and carry around a yearning to be a black guitarist like Hendrix or Muddy Waters. Hey, I would have even been happy to be in the company of Lightnin' Hopkins, Bo Didley and others, but here I am, and there I was. Stuck, seemingly to be ever held a prisoner of my own dreaming.
"Well, now, Kenneth," you might say. "just tell us why you wanted to be born black?" Okay. Glad you asked me that question. It sure took you long enough.
The answer is simple: African-Americans such as Jimi Hendrix, Hopkins, and the like, were blessed at birth with "the gift." "The gift" of natural music in their souls. I wasn't. And nor was any Caucasian musician, guitarist or songwriter to ever "come down the pike." Oh, there have been "white versions" on guitars who were considered "masters," but none like Jimi, Didley and Muddy Waters. No sir. No way. No how. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit my flaws as a white man. I have many flaws. But loving Jimi, Muddy and Bo, is certainly not one of them. My love for Jimi was so intense that many times when I was alone, and had his albums playing, I imagined as I "air guitared" his songs that I was in Madison Square Garden with my band, Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums and having one heckuva time. But like the blade of summer grass that are grown, then hewn down, so are the fallible imaginations of a young white boy in Alabama who would never know the pleasure of being loved, accepted or satisfied unable to play a guitar like Jimi Hendrix.
Oh, I still have all of his albums in my back room in my home that I designated as storage when I built our house. If my stereo had a good needle I'd be playing Jimi's albums now instead of writing this hub. I ain't lying. I'd be on my feet, eyes closed and "getting deeply-involved" with Jimi's live version of "Voodoo Chile," on his double album, "Electric Ladyland," with guest musicians, Jack Cassidy, from the Jefferson Airplane; Buddy Miles, drums and Steve Winwood on organ. And others who were there on that magical, once-in-a-lifetime recording of this deeply-reflective song that Hendrix said later was about his mother back in Seattle, Washington.
Either way, I loved it then. And will love it as long as I have breath. Oh, my daughter, who also grew up on "my" rock albums, said that if I pass away before her, she wants my LPs. Okay. Nothing I can do about that. I think that in itself is a compliment.
Not to me, but to Jimi Hendrix, who showered the world with his magic and shared his soul through his Fender Stratocaster for all of us to enjoy.
And dream of being like him.
To Sing Like Blues Legend, Muddy Waters
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