Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix

Liveright: Norton. Sept. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781631495892. $28.95. MUSIC
James Marshall Hendrix (1942–70) will be forever remembered as one of the key figures in rock music. Rolling Stone magazine is not alone in ranking him “the greatest guitarist of all time.” Sadly, he is also a member of the 27 Club, those memorable musicians including Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse who all perished at that young age, and it’s that tragedy that informs Norman’s (Paul McCartney: A Life) book as much as the extraordinary musicianship of his subject. Norman weaves artistic achievement, personal struggles, and management difficulties together, making the tragic outcome seem if not acceptable then at least understandable. Occasional suggestions of what Hendrix might have been thinking notwithstanding, Norman avoids sounding overly sensationalist and draws heavily on his revered biographies of other key figures of the time for context and color. Readers searching for complete details of Hendrix’s recorded work will need to look elsewhere, as this is by no means a definitive catalog of his output. But as a biography of the legendary ax man, this is the one.
VERDICT There will be much interest in all things Hendrix on the 50th anniversary of his death this September. As his chronicler, Norman is, most definitely, experienced. Essential for music collections and anyone interested in Hendrix or music of the 1960s. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/20.]

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