Friday, Nov. 8, 2013

The Jimi Hendrix Story

American Masters documentary on DVD

By David Luhrssen
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The phenomenal talent of Jimi Hendrix manifested itself at a time when rock musicians reinvented themselves with ease and rapidity. Every month brought another step into the unknown and Hendrix was at the forefront, taking the electric guitar to places it had never been.

The American Masters PBS documentary “Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’” (out on DVD) is a sweeping, enjoyable summary of a remarkable life. The program includes copious concert footage and TV interview snippets (Hendrix comes across as humble and self-effacing) along with the reminiscences of people who knew him well. Born in Seattle in 1942, Hendrix was subjected to much uncertainty in his early life; drawn early to the guitar, he steeped himself in blues and was fascinated by the flamboyance of Chuck Berry. An archival photo from his service in the 101st Airborne shows him in full dress uniform, playing electric guitar.

Hendrix finally arrived after moving to Swinging London in 1966 and organizing his acid rock band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Many musicians would have been content to simply roll with their popularity, but Hendrix continued to grow, playing with other musicians and extending his sonic reach. He wanted to escape the carnival act that helped make him popular—the play-guitar-with-teeth routine)—but tragically, he died in 1970, still on the journey.

Along with the DVD “Hear My Train a Comin’” comes a CD and vinyl issue of a previously unreleased concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Miami Pop Festival.

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