By Gregory Crofton
Watched the PBS American Masters documentary about Jimi Hendrix, a man so consumed with playing guitar he was hardly ever without one.
“Jimi used to get up in the morning and put a guitar on before he walked out the bedroom,” said his manager/record producer, Chas Chandler. “He’d be walking into kitchen to make breakfast with a guitar, he went to the loo with a guitar on. He had a guitar on eight, nine hours a day.”
The documentary is full ofvintimate details about Hendrix, who liked playing music and picking up girls but not much else. Fame didn’t seem to affect his ego. He remained, according to friends and associates in the film, a humble guy who like to joke around, and he smiled a lot. The most revelatory thing I learned from the film was how sexually-charged Hendrix’s performances could be, i.e., treating his guitar like he would a woman.
So what allowed death to snatch away this genius at the age of 27? You don’t learn much at all about that from “JIMI HENDRIX: HEAR MY TRAIN A COMIN’.” It cuts from Hendrix having tea the day before he died straight to a newsman reporting his untimely death.
The official line from the film — the production of which was supported by the Hendrix family — has Jimi, always a troubled sleeper, taking some sleeping pills from his girlfriend at her flat in London. These pills were stronger than he was used to, and he never woke up, according to some British rock historian.
Wikipedia tells a different story. Hendrix and his girlfriend, Monica Dannemann, had been fighting that night. He had amphetamine, marijuana, alcohol and the sleeping pills in his system. But he had taken nine of these high-powered pills, and left behind a poem called “The Story of Life,” which one friend at first thought to be a suicide note.
Yes, the documentary focuses correctly on Hendrix’s brilliant music, but such short shrift coverage of the events that led to his death throws the film out of balance. A trailer for “JIMI HENDRIX: HEAR MY TRAIN A COMIN'” is available here.