The Biography Channel’s Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child documentary has found a new way to relate the oft-told tale of the guitar legend’s life. By utilizing interviews, letters, writings, and recordings, the two-hour special is being billed as “Jimi Hendrix In His Own Words.” The show concentrates on just four years, from September 1966 to September 1970. It is a unique way of telling the story, and Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins “plays” Jimi as narrator.
By working closely with the Hendrix family, the producers have been able to incorporate a plethora of previously unseen photographs and films into the program. This is where Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child really pays off. Apparently there is great deal of material in the Hendrix family’s archives, and they have pulled out a number of real treasures.
Some particular highlights for me include the trio performing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in a small club, and live versions of “And The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Purple Haze” that I had never seen before. There is also a very intimate clip where he plays a solo acoustic version of “Hear My Train A-Comin’” on 12-string guitar. The two festivals that Hendrix is most closely associated with, Monterey Pop and Woodstock, are well represented also.
Most Jimi Hendrix fans are probably aware of his basic story. Born in Seattle, he joined the Army at the age of eighteen, only to be mustered out after thirteen months due to injury. From then on, he devoted himself to music. Nobody in the United States was ready for him at the time however, so he went to London, where the rock music elite embraced him wholeheartedly. He then returned to the US as a triumphant hero.
In so many of the various biographies I have seen over the years, there is a great deal of speculation about him towards the end. Jimi’s drug use and changing music direction are always commented on. But the fact is, nobody really knew what was in his head except for Hendrix. What I liked about the ending of Voodoo Child was the lack of this type of conjecture. The most prescient observation Jimi had at the end was this haunting quote: “I’ll probably never reach 28.”
Sadly, he never did. But his brilliance as a musician will live on forever, and Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child does great justice to his legacy.