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Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful

Jimi's American debut at the Monterey Pop Festival

I've been thinking a lot about Jimi Hendrix lately, and this reminded me of a story about old blues guitarists—specifically, about Lightnin' Hopkins.

Robben Ford, a formidable guitarist who had a hit with a song you may recall ("Wild About You," 1988), was playing with Hopkins when Hopkins missed a change. (A change is where the players shift from one chord to another.) Now, some bluesmen will deliberately come in a half-beat behind the change (John Lee Hooker comes to mind) but Hopkins missed the change completely.

Ford asked him about it later. Now, Hopkins was from the school of "Those white boys want to play the blues so bad—and that's just how they play 'em." So he wasn't going to take no mess from Ford. He told Ford, "Lightnin' change when Lightnin' wanna change."

Blues guitarists of Hopkins's generation didn't appreciate it when people asked them about their influences. These players thought they were being disrespected when someone asked them about who influenced them.

I'm not necessarily sure this is the same anymore. For decades, Eric Clapton has been acknowledging his debt to Robert Johnson, and Clapton's albums and sets routinely include songs by blues greats from the past.

Anyway: Many contemporary guitarists still talk about the influence Hendrix had on them, even though he's been dead since 1970. These are some great players, guys with huge chops of their own. Carlos Santana once said that guitarists used to play in black-and-white, and then Hendrix came along playing in Technicolor. But my favorite take on Hendrix comes from Jeff Beck. Enjoy:
("I'd better find something else to do")

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March 2017

Wish I'd Said It

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• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”


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