DVD Review Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’

jimi dvd

I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest Jimi Hendrix fan. I know that thousands of devotees of the world’s greatest rock guitarist are more hip than I am to the extensive body of music he left behind and the rare and not-so-rare archival footage of him during his 1967-1970 heyday.

But I can claim this: I saw Jimi perform, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in August of 1968. And I genuinely love his music and his talent. So that’s where I’m coming from in writing this review of Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’.

Where I’m also coming from is the fact that I greatly enjoyed Jimi’s singing, not just his guitar playing and showmanship. And as this disc’s awesome new documentary underscores with its many interviews from those who were there, he could sing superbly, though Jimi didn’t believe that. Anyway, it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who feels that way.

But mostly it’s nice — make that great — to see this nearly two-hour portrait of a man who broke barriers without being hostile or arrogant, but rather was a decent, happy, generous guy — and a shy guy, who blossomed while performing. As Paul McCartney points out in one of his many interview clips, that mix of off-stage insecurity and on-stage bravado is common for many artists.

At least Paul is still alive, unlike so many other interviewees, including Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. But that doesn’t mean their words ring any less true.

The documentary features some performance footage, but is more of a historical recap enmeshed with a strong personality profile. Far more performances can be found among the many extras, including previously unreleased color footage of Jimi playing at 1968’s Miami Pop Festival and at 1970’s New York Pop Festival.

Whether you’re a longtime fan hip to minutiae or a loyal but less fiercely focused follower, the documentary, first aired on PBS, is appreciative without being reverential, and well worth two hours of your time. Time was what Jimi didn’t have enough, having passed at age 27. The least we can do now is savor what he left us.

— Bruce Westbrook


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