I wrote the following letter to an internet music list after being out of town on business in Washington DC for a week. I thought that I would repost it here.
>>>I'm back after spending a week in Washington DC on business. One of the things I thought about while I was there was a trip that I made to DC back in 1972 and just what the city was like then. I was a HS senior and was there for a 4 day "orientation weekend" at one of the Universities there.
This was of course at the height of the FUNK movement & Washington DC (Chocolate City) was not only the capital of the United States but also in some ways the "Capital of FUNK" at that time.........as I wandered the streets it was full of FUNK....."Afros"....."Dashiki's".....people walking tall....& standing proud......
I was assigned to stay in an all Black dormitory "suite" with 3 Black upperclassmen, this would be my first down to earth college experience. Quite exciting for a HS senior to be in such surroundings.
Of course these guys had lots of music (& other stuff).........& as I was leafing through their record collections I noticed that there was a fair amount of Hendrix in the crates. So I asked if these guys dug Hendrix........they told me "He is the KING in this room" !!!
Naturally I laughed and we put on the music & discussed Jimi & exactly what he meant for/to Black people all night long.....a very enlightening discussion indeed for me because I began to realize that I was not alone as a Hendrix fan as I had been in HS & that things would be quite a bit different for me in college.
Now of course I was not quite as observant back then as (hopefully) I am now but there were several other things that struck me as I think back on that weekend.
1. The 3 upperclassmen I roomed with that weekend all had Big Afros, Mustaches & wore bandanas around their foreheads. When they didn't wear the bandanas, they wore floppy cowboy/Indian hats.
They all wore "loud" shirts & bell bottom jeans
2. These fellows did not look out of place at all in Washington DC of 1972. Most of the other Black males I encountered that weekend dressed in a similar fashion.
3. I went to parties all over the city of Washington that weekend where i heard the music of Jimi Hendrix being played.....(by Black people). Not exclusively mind you....but he was in the "mix".
Now if you were to approach most of these Black males at that time and ask them what they thought about Jimi Hendrix there response would have been something along these lines (remember Jimi had only been dead for about 2 years at this point so they were ALL quite aware of who/what he was)
"Hendrix is cool.......I don't have any of his music........but I dig him" !!
here is my point......
Jimi Hendrix died too soon to have the kind of impact from a musical perspective on Black people that he might have wanted to have......had he lived a few more years and been able to maintain his health, it's clear from the music that he was creating towards the end that he would have. ALL the FUNK music that follows in the 70's is at least partially derived from the music of Jimi Hendrix.
But Jimi had an impact that was even more far reaching than any of his music could ever have been. He became for Black males coming of age in the 1970's a symbol of something far more powerful.
He became a "role model" for the "funkateers"........Hendrix in his lifestyle, demeanor and willingness to "crossover" and actually deal with white people on an equal footing, had become such a powerful symbol for the achievement of the objectives of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, that the chief beneficiaries of that movement sought to emulate him in the strongest way possible.....
...."they looked EXACTLY like him" !!
(& so did I !!!)
I could care less about the details of how Jimi Hendrix died........he's NOT coming back, as far as I'm concerned he killed himself (either by accident or on purpose) for NO GOOD REASON.
It hurts me to think about that.......however it is something that I can't do anything about.
What I can do something about is to spread the message about who & what he was to younger people.
People die all of the time for a variety of reasons.....what's important to me is the legacy they leave & the lives that they touch. Jimi Hendrix has left us an important legacy.....he has touched many lives.
As we approach the year 2000 I think that his legacy has become more (not less) important.
The problems that we face as a race divided society are WORSE now than they were in the 60's.
Jimi showed us the way then........& he can show us once again....if only people would just check him out.
This is why the marketing of his recently released material has been such a disappointment to me. The very people that he should be reaching now are not able to hear it on the radio. This is a crime in my opinion.
Jimi Hendrix was the major pop star of his day......& yet now he is being marketed as if he were some obscure "cult phenomena".
I have received hundreds of letters from Black people who had visited my website and had no idea that there was "new" Hendrix material available. Most of them told me that they had been fans "back in the day" and would consider purchasing "First Rays of a New Rising Sun". Some told me that they had printed out the Hendrix material on my web site and given it to their children to read.
One elementary school teacher told me that she had printed it out & distributed it to her class.
NOTHING could have made me feel better !!!
Well I suppose I've rambled enough for one post.
It's good to be back.
Bob Davis -6/16/97<<