I loathe the term ‘Guitar Hero’ – it is an overused cliche that lost all value when it went from describing gods like Clapton to 12 year-old video gamers. No standard rock accolades can begin to explain the otherworldly genius of Jimi Hendrix – a cosmic phenomenon who, like Beethoven, had a rare gift seldom seen or understood by mortals. Nonetheless, the rockumentary Jimi Hendrix: The Guitar Hero by Jon Brewer does offer a very intriguing glimpse into the life and times of the troubled blues-man who left us much too soon.
While the fight over the Hendrix legacy continues in court, there will be no biopic on par with Oliver Stone’s classic Doors film. Yet this film is the beginning of a journey every Hendrix fan should take. Narrated by Slash and featuring a series of interviews with Jimi’s surviving brother and other rock legends, it traces Hendrix from his early days in Seattle. Jimi grew up poor but showed early signs of virtuosity and, despite an abusive father who suffocated his music, rose to greatness. By age 15, he had already played behind and impressed the legendary Ray Charles.
Hendrix soon went to London, and became an overnight sensation. Archival footage of Hendrix in these early, beautiful days mixed with interview accounts of his genius are fascinating. Apparently, a then unknown Hendrix invited himself to join Cream on stage and from the first riffs proved quite easily that he was eons ahead of the so-called British invasion. From the Beatles to the Stones, there was rarely a Hendrix gig in these early club days not packed with rock glitterati. All knew they were witnessing the birth of a legend – and Hendrix would leave no doubt in his short career. Inventing a new sound and style, and then being constantly imitated.
Jimi was undoubtedly from another astral plane – but it was the experiences of childhood, his parent’s troubled marriage and his time in Vietnam which may have evoked the most powerful elements of his lyrics and music. Hendrix was a blues man first, whose music came straight from his soul. And when the film reveals that Hendrix had grand plans to tour with an orchestra, one can only imagine what the world has really lost and weep.
So while this film is certainly not the ‘final word’ on Hendrix, it is definitely a good place to begin exploring the legacy of Hendrix. The director brought what is most important – a true passion for Hendrix and the desire to explore his mystical musical evolution with honesty and introspection â€“ from his musical roots to the troubles and torments which ultimately took him from us.