December 2010 Archives

Becoming Jimi Hendrix

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Click for availability and more information Becoming Jimi Hendrix, by Steven Roby
I had the good fortune of living through the 1960s, which was probably one of the most critical decades in terms of music as well as social awareness. This is evident in the transition from simple "bubble gum" to classic rock. When I saw Becoming Jimi Hendrix by Steven Roby on our book shelf, I just knew I had to read it. Hendrix was chosen the greatest guitarist of all time by The Rolling Stone in 2003. His contemporary Eric Clapton once left the stage stunned when he saw Hendrix doing things he had never known were possible!

Things weren't always good for Jimi (nee Johnny Allen Hendrix). He was born in Seattle WA in 1942 to an absentee mother, who frequented bars, and a hard-working, but often unemployed father. To call them poor is an understatement. Jimi had to look after his brother, Leon, who joined him in stealing food from grocery stores. He developed his interest in music from listening to an aunt's rhythm and blues record collection. His father begrudgingly gave him a guitar he won in a card game. Jimi loved his guitar as illustrated by his sleeping with it and taking it to school. He never went anywhere without it. Unfortunately, through his life he would have to pawn it and either get another one or get someone to get it out of "hawk" so he could perform.

Hendrix started playing with bands in the Deep South, which was extremely prejudiced. He backed up The Isley Brothers, Little Richard, King Curtis. Jimi had a hard time holding onto a job because, ironically, he was light-years ahead of his contemporaries! This probably contributed to his being poor for so long; he wanted to go in one direction, while the rest of the band had something else in mind! Despite being quiet and shy, Jimi still exhibited anger from time to time. Yet, he was very popular with women. Although Hendrix used LSD and other drugs, he turned down selling them to make extra money. He extolled the mind-expanding ability of drugs. He claimed it opened up a whole new world of music creativity to him. Hendrix eventually travelled to New York and was part of the Greenwich Village scene along with the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

Jimi was finally discovered by Chas Chandler (one of The Animals), who talked him into recording in England. Hendrix moved to England and became a big hit in Europe. He met Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon. Unfortunately, he also ended up with an underhanded manager, who took a big cut out of Jimi's money. Whether Jimi was just naïve or just wanted to perform his music his way is not clear. Even Jimi's death from an overdose of drugs and wine, which was supposed to be suicide, was deemed to be the work of his manager.

Everyone who came in touch with Hendrix was in some way effected by Jimi's influence. There's no telling where he could have taken his musical talent. His Band of Gypsys , which included Billy Cox and Miles Davis, was supposed to lead him into the next musical revolution. Instead, his life was snuffed out at the young age of 27.


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Click for availability and more information Masterpiece, by Elise Broach
When Martin, a beetle who lives with his family under the sink in James Pompaday's apartment, surprises James with a miniature pen-and-ink drawing for birthday, then two become tangled up in an art heist of a Durer masterpiece stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Berlin at War

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Click for availability and more information Berlin at War, by Roger Moorhouse
Devoted fans of the always-growing collection of non-fiction books dealing with World War II will rejoice with Roger Moorhouse's Berlin at War. An historian specializing in modern German history, Moorhouse begins with the April, 1939 Fuhrerweather, or the series of public celebrations of Adolph Hitler's birthday in Berlin. From that supposedly joyous event, the following months and years which saw the outbreak of war and the increasing destruction of Berlin is documented from various angles. Effectively using diaries, newspaper accounts, and many other primary sources, Moorhouse skillfully constructs life in Berlin under the Nazi regime. While the early days of war were seen by many Berliners as a time of continued powerful German victories, the tide of war began to turn as the relentless Allied bombing began the destruction of a city that many Berliners saw as a safe refuge against the enemy. Moorhouse covers many aspects of Berlin society : the resistance, as weak as it might have been, to the Nazis, the plight of the Jews of Berlin as the Nazis enforced their methodical extermination of them, how average Berliners survived the brutal bombings, and many other situations the city of Berlin endured during the war. Berlin at War is a wonderfully readable and extremely interesting account of life in the capital of The Third Reich during the tumultuous years of World War II.

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