It is hard not to hear Jimi Hendrix’ music with out being moved, whether it’s as simple turning off, or turning up, the stereo, or as complex as altering one’s entire perception of reality. Seeing Jimi Hendrix perform live, even on television, has been a life-defining experience for many. Tonight on PBS’ American Masters (as close to appointment television as you get these days –- I recall several conversations with my late mother over synchronizing our watching of the Woody Allen segment), a new generation will be introduced to the man’s unique charisma. Concluding a year of releases and events commemorating his 70th birthday, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ will tell the tale of his humble beginnings in Seattle followed by stints in the Army and with Little Richard and then his Apollo-like rise to superstardom with the Experience with its subsequent consequences. Among many never-before-widely seen home movies and such will be footage of Hendrix performing at May 1968’s Miami Pop Festival, and an accompanying CD of his performance,produced by his long-term sound engineer Eddie Kramer, is also out in the stores today. Hendrix headlined this first major rock festival staged on the East Coast, and the first festival staged by future-Woodstock organizer Michael Lang(also featuring Chuck Berry, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, the festival was originally intended to go on a second day, but was rained out – inspiring Hendrix to write future Electric Ladyland track “Rainy Day, Dream Away”). He is in quintessential form, both visually and musically, and one needs no explanation as to why he altered so many things about our world.

For those of you who still can’t get enough of Jimi, warts and all, and perhaps had your conspiracy theories piqued by the footage of his final, haunted September 1970 performance in Germany toward the end of Long Train, or your prurient interest by the interviews with some of his coterie of women (notably Linda Keith — Keith Richards’ former girlfriend, who introduced Jimi to Chas Chandler in New York), you may find further reward in Jimi Hendrix – The Last 24 Hours(2004), which despite its lurid and morbid subject matter does feature tasteful interviews (with the likes of Keith Altham, Hendrix’ former PR manager, and Tony Calder, the label partner of Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who recounts among other things the thwarting of the pair’s signing of Hendrix by Linda Keith for whom he had previously participated in match-making with Keith Richard) and even some unusual performance footage as well. It does address the mystery surrounding his death, one that will likely never be fully answered, but the mystery in itself is the flipside of the glorious mystery that was the man, a man are all privileged to experience.

To watch American Masters’ Hear My Train A Comin’, check your local listings here.

Jimi Hendrix–The Last 24 Hours is available free via On Demand at FilmOn.

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