RIP Jimi

I was looking back over my blog posts the other day and I’ve got to say—I’m really disappointed. While I meant each and every word that went into every post, the little snippets didn’t tell you anything about who I am or why I do what I do.

The answer to the question is easy if you know me.

I write Rockstar romance because I couldn’t do the thing I really wanted to do with my life—make music.

At the age of six, I picked up a weather beaten acoustic guitar—classic, with nylon strings—that my mom had sitting around our apartment. She was going through a hippy phase. I guess you can’t really call it a phase since it lasted all of my childhood and adolescence, but I digress.

From the moment I felt the polished wood in my hands, the bite of the strings on my fingertips, I knew what I wanted to do: play music.

The fuck of it is—I was really good.

By the time I was seven I had quite a little repertoire. I learned by ear, which means anything on the radio was fair game. There was no internet but I had a television in my room and every Friday night I would turn on this show that aired after midnight where some of the most influential bands in rock did their thing.

No, it wasn’t American Bandstand. AB aired on Saturday mornings and I watched that too. Anything to do with music and I was in, because all I ever wanted to do was be that—one of those guitarists I so admired.

Unfortunately, with the kind of music I liked—Rock, and later Grunge—there weren’t many female guitarists to emulate. Obviously, Nancy Wilson from Heart—but I won’t even go there. That girl can SHRED a guitar.

Since I learned by watching, I picked up a lot of bad habits.

For instance, men rest the thumbs of their fret hand over the top of the guitar. Why? They have big hands.

Women usually play with their thumbs farther back on the neck to give them leverage, especially when learning complicated chords. Barre chords…the bane of any young guitarists’ existence.

But I didn’t “learn” to play the guitar in the true sense. I went to the music store and poured over the books showing the finger positions for the chords. I also bastardized many of the chords because I didn’t have the hand strength at seven or eight to hold down the strings.

It was about that time I was given my first steel string acoustic. And my love only grew from there.

And when I say love, I don’t mean it in an “I really like that song” kind of way.

My adoration ran toward the obsessive “I love that musician…that group…that singer…and I want to know everything there is to know about who they are and what they do.” To me, songwriters are the most gifted writers of all.

The emotional journey I take my readers on usually consists of an eighty thousand word book.

If you take one of my all time favorite songs, Black by Pearl Jam, the entirety of the work consists of two hundred and eleven words. That includes the “ah’s and the “oh’s.”

But in those scant few phrases Eddie Vedder takes the listener on a journey of desolation. Of lost love.

The song often moves me to tears. No matter the temperature, I sit behind the wheel of my car until the last chord is played. The tune is worth the beads of sweat trickling down my back as I bake in the unforgiving Vegas heat. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Eddie perform, every emotion crossing his face, you realize the true talent.

I know in my heart I’ll never be that talented.

In the weeks to come I’ve decided to write blogs about my favorite songs, artists and genres of music.

Because that is who I am.

No, you won’t find pictures of me playing with my dog on my website. Mostly because I’m not photogenic.

Like writing, taking a good picture, modeling, is an art form. During my last photo shoot the photographer had to take one hundred photos to get a dozen viable images. Let’s put it this way—I look better in real life.

There are a lot of reasons I’ve decided to go in this direction. In each of the stories I write there is a little piece of the musicians I admire in the characters.

Of course, it’s all conjecture and most likely idealized.

Fame isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. If it was, so many artists wouldn’t burn out, inviting death and destruction once they’ve realized their dreams. Famous or not, they still live with the same doubts, fears, and insecurities we all do.

There are a disproportionate number of these talented, tortured souls who never reach old age.

The myth of the “twenty seven club” started in the seventies—1970 specifically—when Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison all died within a year of each other. All talented. All at the top of their game. And all twenty-seven years old.

If you delve a little deeper you’ll realize there is a psychological explanation behind the illustrious club. Something happens to your brain around the age of twenty-seven. You no longer find it necessary to drive ninety when the speed limit is sixty-five. You turn down the volume on your car radio and check your rear view mirror for impending peril. Why? Because around that age it dawns on you—you’re not invincible.

But musicians and artists— especially those who achieved fame at an early age— live in an arrested state of development. And so do we, the fans, to a certain extent.

When I watch Eddie Vedder perform or Chris Cornell of Sound Garden, I see them as who they were in the early 90’s when I was a young girl dreaming of what it would be like to know them. To talk to them.

I don’t see the gray hair, the wrinkles around their eyes. But that’s just wishful thinking. In the case of Jimi, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and more recently Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, I don’t have to imagine them as young. They are young. Forever.

The main reasons I put this blog out today even though I’m not fully prepared, is because of a story I read when sifting through one of my favorite publications early this morning.

There it was in black and white. On this day in 1970 Jimi Hendrix died of “inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication.“

Skimming the article, I grew sadder with each paragraph. Having just finished his dream, the completion of his recording studio—Electric Lady, Jimi threw a grand opening party on August 26th, 1970. Then he reluctantly embarked on a series of concerts, including an event on the Isle of Wight where he played in front of some six hundred thousand.

It should have been his finest moment, but Jimi was restless, eager to return to Electric Lady Studios—his port in the storm that had become his life.

Unfortunately, he never returned. Instead he died, choking on his own vomit while he sought oblivion. Or peace. Or both.

In the years that followed many world famous artists—Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie, to name a few—completed some of their greatest works in the “house that Jimi built” with the mural of the elfin woman overseeing the events in silent repose.

So I’ve dedicated this first blog to Jimi. He was before my time, but no less valuable in the threads that have woven together what I now consider my life’s work—my writing.

Wherever Jimi is, I hope he’s happy. Perhaps in death his soul is quiet and filled with the music of all that came after.

I’ve included a couple of YouTube threads below— one for Black, the Pearl Jam song I mentioned earlier, and one for All Along the Watchtower, the song Jimi Hendrix covered by Bob Dylan. My favorite of his works.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Next week I’ll be writing about one of my favorite bands of all time—Blind Melon—and the talented singer/songwriter Shannon Hoon, who was also taken much too soon.

Maybe that’s why they call them stars. Because they are too bright to walk among us—destined for greater things and other planes of consciousness.

When you think about it, the old adage may be spot on: when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.