In 2018 I completed my book, Jimi Hendrix - The Day I Was There, which brought together over 500 memories of Hendrix, from his pre fame days through to his very last. In compiling the book I was struck by how many people were able to share with me personal memories of encountering Jimi. This, of course, is because he rose to fame in an era before personal assistants and PRs became the norm, and because he was a black man performing in 1960s America when it was still not safe to be out on the streets in certain cities. One of the most personal and affecting tales in the book is from a lady from Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is home to the magnificent Municipal Auditorium, which hosted the Louisiana Hayride radio shows which brought a young Elvis Presley to fame. When Jimi came to the Auditorium on 31 July 1968, Louisiana was still a segregated city. My contributor recalls she and her two friends hanging out with Jimi after the show and him having to stay back at his hotel when the party decided to get late night food because the only place to go was the local truck stop and Jimi’s fans were savvy enough to know that a late night truck stop wasn’t a good place for a black guy to visit.
There are other instances of Jimi meeting fans and taking time out to hang with them, and clear examples of him being racially abused - use of the N word, a slice of watermelon being thrown on stage. What emerges from the book more than anything else is a picture of just how hard life must have been for Hendrix. There were drugs, girls and glamour, but often he wanted to slip away and experience a little normality.
Much has been written about what direction Jimi might have gone in musically had he lived. One possibility is that, had he been able to escape the shackles of the management which worked him like a horse and undoubtedly contributed to his early demise, he might have walked away from the spotlight altogether and just shown a few people how to play the guitar the way he did.