Jimi Hendrix is featured on director Bob Smeaton’s “Hear My Train” that outputs the musician’s talent in electric guitar innovation. Hendrix was known for endless practice, and the Train confirms much of what we already knew.
This new “American Masters” documentary gives some tantalizing hints of what we still hardly know at all. Anyone who has heard even a few bars of “Purple Haze” knows how this musician coaxed extraordinary sounds out of the guitar. There’s no doubt that he played it like no one else.
Hendrix also grew up on the right ancestors: Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Charlie Christian, Chuck Berry.
While Smeaton doesn’t dwell on his songwriting, the clips make it clear Hendrix was underrated with words as well.
Outside of the music, two quite different Hendrixes emerge. One was funny, easy going and irresistible to women.
The other seemed painfully uncomfortable in public situations where he wasn’t holding a guitar. In an appearance on the Dick Cavett show, he looks like he’d rather be sitting in an IRS audit.
It’s also true we already have an extensive written and musical archive on Hendrix, which this production further enhances.
What it doesn’t tell us, maybe because no one can, is how he came to join the “27 Club” — rockers who died at that tragically young age.
A Janis Joplin or Amy Winehouse showed signs of drift, of becoming increasingly lost. Not so Hendrix. One morning he was just gone.
And we’ll never know what he could have created in the 43 years since he left.
The songs he did bring are still popular today as they were in the late 1960’s.