Friday, July 04, 2014

Kissing Jimi's Sky

I was born in 1969. Around the time I was finally sleeping through the night, Jimi Hendrix was resigning to a darkness of his own. He died the following fall at the age of 27, when I was one month shy of turning one. Had I been an older girl, wide-eyed with the turbulence and fireworks of the times, I might have easily joined the pilgrimage of women yearning to stretch themselves and their lives naked beneath his musician’s trance.

By the universe’s exquisite design, I was not yet capable of rolling onto my back.

I’ve held barely a thumbprint of Jimi Hendrix’s story until recently (another reason why we should vote for Netflix in 2016). I was enthralled by his lifelong romance with music, to learn he was never ever without his guitar, by the enormous chunks of obsessed practice hours and simmering stock of chitlin circuit years that brewed the ingredients of his genius, by the divine precision of daring to reach up and seize his star just as one was whizzing above his head.

Even without the prequel, Jimi has long held court in the pantheon of culture icons. Jimi. Nat. James. Marilyn. Knowable only through archives, their two-dimensional allure still arresting. Their images imbued with the elusive tease of "mystique," their names delicious with "legend." Our courtships with today's stars are far less satisfying. Most leave nothing to chance in affixing themselves to our clouds. Too many leave us without wonderment, distract us with transparent engineering instead of blowing our minds with the rawness of their signature ingenuity.

I appreciated hearing Jimi's narrative told without the standard emphasis on his foils and subsequent demise. His life has always been encapsulated in my consciousness with posters, news reels and graphic tees. I devour his story with TMZ-inspired ravenousness. 

Had I discovered such a colorful and sumptuous bird as Jimi against that technicolor landscape of sameness and change, I might've found myself gasping for the rarefied, counter-culture air that filled his narrow chest. I could’ve allowed my ambitions for this world to be seduced by the perfect storm of his single-minded genius, by the salvation that was his guitar, by his sensual reverence for music.  Scenes from the rock opera Tommy come to mind as I watch the documentary footage and picture myself as one of Jimi's willing concubines, determined to stoke his comforts, protect the gentle spirit encased by his fame, eager for Jimi to play his scales.

Had I been of hitchhiking age, I would've found my way to him. At least … I think so.  I mean, I can only go by the black-and-white snapshots of the fresh faced girls draped languidly across his limelight. Their bodies lithe, lids heavy and eyes glistening, but all of them grinning at Jimi. In their interviews now, as seasoned women, I can hear the gentle gurgle of time smoothing the jagged stones of frenetic nights, stark and lonely afternoons, and the ripping ache of negotiated affections. Still, Jimi glowed worthy, transforming their efficient dismissal to martyred devotion.

Jimi Hendrix was destined long before he was due. For at least half a dozen reasons, I needed to hear the other half of his tale right now. Celebrate his journey right now.  I lay myself, shamelessly naked, at his feet right. now.