Why I Don’t Respect #JimiHendrix, an essay on Race & Music.
In the 60s, black music was finally getting shine. Record labels #Motown & #Stax had an array of talented black artists, but the 3 main acts during this period were #JamesBrown, #SlyStone & Hendrix. Brown sacrificed his appeal to white audiences by releasing pro-black anthems like “I’m Black & I’m Proud”. Sly was controversial among both militant blacks & racist whites for leading a mixed race band. They both hindered their success by promoting black leadership. Jimi, however, rebelled against #LittleRichard, #TheIsleyBrothers & other black acts who hired him, but as soon as the white man came calling he completely acquiesced to them. While white artists like #EricClapton & #TheRollingStones were using their profile to increase the visibility of black blues men, Jimi used his platform to cover #BobDylan & #TheBeatles, artists who had little or nothing to do with Jimi’s artistic growth.
Did Jimi HAVE to promote blackness? I personally say no. Artists should create freely, but for him to be resistant to the direction of his black employers only to submit fully to the white ones is an act of hypocrisy that may be labeled today as “cooning”. It’s believed that Jimi grew tired of being a pawn so he broke up “the Experience”, his band of white musicians, but this is untrue. The bass player quit & with the exception of the #BandOfGypsies project, the drummer was with Jimi until the end.
My opinion on Jimi’s career choices, however, have NO bearing on my objective opinion of his art. He was an elite guitarist both as a showman & player. He sold tons of records. He’s influenced music & fashion. But his choice to promote popular white acts when he could’ve literally “given back” to the black music that influenced him will never be ok to me. While Brown & Motown promoted black ownership & Sly & Stax displayed progressive integration, Jimi’s legacy ends with his corpse full of illegal substances, the fate of many in the culture he imitated. I’ll still honor him by releasing my 2nd solo album under the name Biggie Hendrix; I’ll always represent the black excellence, even if he didn’t. End.