The book is called: History of the World in Nine Guitars.
It was written by Erik Orsenna, accompanied by Thierry Arnoult and published in 1996. The English edition was translated from the original French by Julia Shirek Smith and published in the United States in 1999. I bought my copy of the small hardcover at the gift store in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston several years ago. It was one of those occasions where I felt like the book found me as much as I found the book.
In the chapter titled “Woodstock, 1969,” Mr. Orsenna writes in the voice of the young Jimi Hendrix.
My father’s name is James. He is a gardener. He doesn’t talk much. But when you ask him a question, he knows how to answer.
I have restless fingers. They won’t stay still. They tap on every surface they see. They beat time on the walls and the tables, on my desk at school. They live their own life, and I can’t do anything about it. It’s no good telling them to stop. They don’t hear me.
My father doesn’t just know how to answer. He knows how to look: ‘I’ve seen your fingers, son. Yours are waiting for something, you can depend on it. All the fidgeting, that’s their way of calling. Now I’ve brought you something. Do you think maybe it’s what they’ve been waiting for?’
I am eleven. My father has just taken the guitar from behind his back. A big brown box with strings. My fingers are happy. They have found their garden, their house, their promenade, a door to the world, a way to speak.”
Listen to the fingers of Jimi Hendrix speak.
“Little Wing” was written by Jimi Hendrix, recorded by The Jimi Hendrix Experience and released on their 1967 album Axis:Bold As Love.
On that recording, Jimi Hendrix sings and plays electric guitar, Noel Redding plays bass guitar and Mitch Mitchell plays drums.
Much has been said about Jimi Hendrix, but Richie Unterberger, writing in the All Music Guide to Rock, offers one of the best single sentences about Jimi: “In his brief four-year reign as a superstar, Jimi Hendrix expanded the vocabulary of electric rock guitar more than anyone before or since.”
Jimi Hendrix was born this day, November 27, in the year of 1942, in Seattle, Washington. His birth name was Johnny Allen Hendrix, but changed to James Marshall Hendrix by his parents in 1946.
Jimi passed away on September 18, 1970 in London, England.
I wrote my first post in honor of Jimi Hendrix’s birthday on November 27, 2010. You can find that post in the Archives by clicking on November 2010 and scrolling down through that month’s earlier entries.