Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Biography: Becoming Jimi Hendrix by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber

Before you even pick the book up, you know that the story of legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix is flawed; sure to disappoint. The star of the story dies in the end. Astonishingly, September 18 is the 40th anniversary of Hendrix death.

As befits a rock god, there is bound to be some brouhaha. Expect to hear some never-before-aired studio recordings and a documentary film, Valleys and Neptune, will come out this fall.

And then there’s Becoming Jimi Hendrix (Da Capo), a very good biography co-authored by author and journalist Brad Schreiber and noted Henxdrix historian, Steven Roby. The inside background stuff is rich and thick and it starts on the very first page:
He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix. But when his father, Al, returned from World War II and saw his son for the first time, he renamed him James Marshall Hendrix.

As a little boy, he earned the nickname “Buster,” because his hero was the actor who played Flash Gordon, Buster Crabbe.

In his Seattle band The Rocking Kings, his innocent face and quiet demeanor made others call him “Cupcake.”
There’s more -- quite a bit more, actually -- but you get the idea. Roby and Schreiber have worked at unearthing the story of Jimi and then they share it with all of us here. Even so, they’re careful to point out that they’ve chosen exactly what to share with some care. From an interview with the authors:
Most biographers try to capture most of a life and can overwhelm readers with too many facts. Becoming Jimi Hendrix is in 6-month chunks, from 1962-66, highlighting the events that shaped him musically, psychologically, personally and professionally. We’ve also included an extensive appendix for the hardcore fan, with timeline, sessionography, bibliography and Internet links.
This is the first biography that deals extensively with Hendrix’s early years, including his roots, his army stint, his influences and his time as a sideman. Frankly, Becoming Jimi Hendrix rocks. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area where he works in the high tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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