Two Riders Were Approaching: The Life and Death of Jimi Hendrix by Mick Wall, the internationally bestselling author, is a biography of Jimi Hendrix, still thought to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time and the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll.
Although his career only spanned four short years, his influence has inspired musicians throughout the following decades.
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born in Seattle 1942 to Lucille (born Jeter) age 17, who married 23-year-old US Army Private, James Allen Ross Hendrix. His lineage was a mix of African slaves, white slave traders and Red Indian tribes.
His father in prison, his mother flighty, he was brought up by relatives. Sometimes neglected and often hungry, he had a tough childhood. But when his Uncle’s lodgers introduced him to their collection of 78 rpm blues records he was instantly captivated. Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters and B. B. King had him hypnotised.
When 14-year-old Jimmy found an acoustic guitar with one string, he found his true calling. He could play it from the moment he rescued it – one string!! He played it upside down, backwards and left-handed. He eventually got another five strings and was able to play seriously.
After a spell in the army, he was discharged, bought a new guitar and began playing with the ‘King Casuals’ in any place that would pay them a few dollars.
In 1964, he was offered a gig in New York with the Isley Brothers and toured with them all over the East Coast, Deep South and Bermuda. Then, after a spell in L.A., Jimmy went to London to join the music scene of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. His manager, Chas Chandler, introduced him to the entrepreneur, Mike Jeffery, club owner and manager of the ‘Animals’ rock band, amongst others.
Re-named Jimi by Chas, he became “The Jimi Hendrix Experience” and an integral part of the UK rock scene, mixing with such legends as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. As his career soared he played at major rock concerts on both sides of the Atlantic and gigs in Scandinavia and Europe.
But, along with fame, came the drugs, the booze and the women and the constant pressure by his managers to follow their rigorous schedule of tours and concerts. Mixing alcohol and drugs for days on end to get him through, he would become angry and violent. As he became more and more unstable, he drove away good friends and traded them for hangers-on, who encouraged his drug-taking.
He was used and abused by those he trusted the most.
Tragically he died in 1970 in circumstances that are still disputed.
Mick Wall has created a superb biography of this guitar rock legend with his in-depth research of the subject and insightful interviews with those who knew him well.
There is an emotional phone interview with Kathy Etchingham, who lived with Jimi in the ’60s. She was 24 and he was almost 28 when he died. And, an informative session with Eddie Kramer, who worked alongside Jimi as engineer and mixer of all three studio albums made while the guitarist was still alive.
Like Icarus, he soared on the wings of fame, but was burnt and crashed to earth, killed by those he most trusted. Like many of that era in Pop Music history, they all died too young, but their music and brilliance lives on.
Whether you are 16 or 60, enjoy this marvellous book, then listen and be blown away by the music.
Two Riders Were Approaching: The Life and Death of Jimi Hendrix is available in paperback, hardback and e-book
About Mick Wall
Mick Wall is the UK’s best-known rock writer, author and TV and radio programme maker, and is the author of numerous critically-acclaimed books, including definitive, bestselling titles on Led Zeppelin (When Giants Walked the Earth), Metallica (Enter Night), AC/DC (Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be), Black Sabbath (Symptom of the Universe), Lou Reed, The Doors (Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre), Guns N’ Roses and Lemmy. He lives in England.