At 723 pages, ELECTRIC GYPSY will probably go down as the most exhaustive treatment ever of Jimi Hendrix, whose reputation as a giant in rock music has grown steadily since his untimely death in 1970. Glebbeek is the founder of the Hendrix Information Center, which speaks to the large number of appendices in the book. There is a detailed chronology of Hendrix’s life and a superb discography. ELECTRIC GYPSY also includes a large number of marvelous photographs. The work is really more an encyclopedia on Hendrix than an analytical biography.
The opening chapters of ELECTRIC GYPSY are poignant in describing Hendrix’s childhood years in Seattle. His mother was an alcoholic and died when Hendrix was still a teenager. It is hard to gauge the impact that her death had on him, but no child who grew up in an environment that included an alcoholic parent can come away completely unscathed.
Hendrix found his way out of Seattle by joining the army. (His father, Leon, had also been in the military.) By the time Hendrix was a teenager, he was already playing guitar and reading science fiction. After doing his stint in the army, Hendrix began playing in a number of bands. He became Little Richard’s guitar player in 1963.
Hendrix made his jump into stardom after he had moved to England and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966. The Experience included Noel Redding on bass guitar, Mitch Mitchell on drums, and Hendrix on lead guitar. The British rock stars and press were amazed by Hendrix’s guitar style and his following grew by droves. ELECTRIC GYPSY details each of the albums that the Experience produced and comments on how they were received. Samples of Hendrix’s lyrics and poems are reprinted for the reader’s benefit. Hendrix was definitely a musical giant, but he was also heavily into the drug scene which permeated the music business at that time. It was tragic that drugs were responsible for his premature death. ELECTRIC GYPSY is almost overwhelming in its detail, but the reader can always go back to whichever section he or she would like to study further. The reader will most likely take the book down from the shelf after putting on the stereo to one of Hendrix’s classic recordings.