Jimi Hendrix at 70: What Did We Miss?
Most everyone in the 27 Club have fanciful alternate lives in the minds of fans, where they didn't die at such a stupidly young ages, and they all "grew up" to be breathing interesting, road-tested people in the 21st century.
And then there is Jimi Hendrix, who would have been 70 years old today. Mind you, 70 isn't what 70 was just a few years ago. Now you can be Paul McCartney and be 70. Ann-Margret and Raquel Welch are both over 70 and still smoke hotter than girls who are younger than their first facelifts.
Born November 27, 1942, Hendrix died September 18, 1970 of asphyxia related to a drug overdose. At his age he was obviously just warming up. We hope.
His influence is massive, lighting sparks in Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lenny Kravitz, Eddie Van Halen, John Frusciante, and P-Funk's Eddie Hazel, who some would say should be right up there in terms of artistry next to Hendrix himself.
When we asked Rocks Off fans on Facebook what they thought, some said Hendrix would have probably done jail time, recorded with Nickelback or Santana, or been a commercial sell-out. Not necessarily in that order, presumably.
Another commenter made the point that had Hendrix lived, Eric Clapton's station as a guitar god would have been diminished. I honestly don't put them in the same master class, but to each his or her own. I think Hendrix was a lot weirder, or at least had a more esoteric future ahead of him, far less straight than Clapton's.
But then again...
Sometimes I am haunted/excited with thoughts of Hendrix disco-fying his hits by the late '70s, flying his freaky flag at Studio 54 with Jagger and Warhol. It could have sounded sort of like this, but better, which I guess that depends on your inherent fright of disco production.
What would his relationship been with Prince, who more or less fused Hendrix shit-hot licks with a 25-cent peepshow and a gang of synths? Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead once said that he had no use for Prince, since he experienced Hendrix firsthand himself.
A tandem Hendrix and Prince concert, with Prince opening for Buster in arenas across the land? Sounds decent. A cameo in Purple Rain? Sure. Marauding America in the early '80s on twin purple motorcycles? Fuck yes.
That could have been Hendrix soloing on Michael Jackson's "Beat It," for Jesus' sake, instead of Eddie Van Halen. Coming out of a subway car in a long black duster, shades, and spangly earrings, wrenching out a flawless solo that would have brought Nina Blackwood and Mark Goodman to tears on MTV.
We could have ended the Cold War, dammit.
Of course as with Janis, Jim, Kurt, and the rest, we didn't get to see the nasty downsides of fame: The rehabs, the arrests, the bankruptcies, the Pepsi commercials, the neon sport coats, the processed drums, the synth-harmonicas, the mullets, and the Grammy appearances.
Mind you, I am also the guy who daydreams about Freddie Mercury getting into Twitter fights with Lady Gaga, John Lennon and Thurston Moore starting a supergroup, GG Allin's reality show on A&E, and Tupac Shakur sitcoms on ABC.
By now Jimi could either be sporting the most fantastic wig of all-time, or going sleek and chic like Isaac Hayes. Imagine him doped up on religion with Bob Dylan, and putting down the guitar for a gospel pulpit.
"I tell ya I tell ya, I used to be all 'Hey Joe' but now I'm all 'Hey God!' I used to be stone free, but now I am trying to be sin-free!" he would howl, pounding and sweating on a church stage, before playing a great version of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" that would get everyone pregnant.
That's assuming that he wouldn't have taken a shine to crack or something in the '80s, and be in jail for stabbing Phil Spector to death. Bravo.
For all we know, in an alternate universe he could be playing a smaller venue like Arena Theatre on that revolving stage too.
"Dude, he didn't even play 'Crosstown Traffic.' Shit sucked," you would squeal on Twitter to your friends.
(Chuck Berry, the man who invented rock and roll, played Nutty Jerry's in Winnie a few years back. That's not a knock on Jerry's as a venue, just a comment on how we treat our pioneers in their twilight. Berry's live performance notwithstanding.)
I wouldn't care what or where Hendrix played as long as he played "Red House" real loud and dirty.
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