“[Handwriting] is the pouring out of one’s personality through touch and motion. And it allows for those who read it to be transported, melded into the feelings and emotions of the one who took pen in hand to write your ticket to where they wished to take you.”
So says Janie Hendrix in the introduction to her compilation, Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Lyric Book, of her brother Jimi’s writings. After leafing through the book and running my fingers over the images of Jimi Hendrix’ penmanship on napkins and hotel stationary, I have to agree.
The book is a comprehensive collection of not only Jimi Hendrix’ greatest and best remembered songs, but also many of his previously unreleased writings. A solid majority of the songs are also shown in Hendrix’ own handwriting on what appears to be anything he could find when the artistic moment happened to hit him. Various hotel stationary, airline pads, napkins, and even an unfolded envelope served as Jimi’s canvases. Every spread includes a photo of Hendrix; some in performance and some off-stage in a more candid setting. Emotion and intrigue fills every image.
To see an artist’s own handwriting with edits and all are more meaningful to me than the lyrics themselves. With this collection, we can see where Hendrix’ head was in the first stage of the writing process, then the edit or revision showing the direction which was more meaningful to him and what he felt needed to be better highlighted. On some of the works, even the finished product was further refined from the original edit, creating an even more obvious line for us, the listener, to follow.
Admittedly, I can be a sucker for coffee-table books. Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Lyric Book however, is much more than that. With so much emphasis on the lyrics, writing style, and even penmanship–without any outside commentary–the book is more of a gallery of Jimi Hendrix’ lyrical paintings. This book is like a museum of the fine art of Hendrix’ lyrical ability, in that you leaf through each page only seeing what the artist put down on pen and paper (or napkin). You don’t have any interruptions from a narration explaining the where, when, how of the poetry. Nothing stands between you and the artist, the way art was meant to be. On so many pages I found myself running my fingers over the paper trying to feel the indents of Jimi’s pen on whatever medium he happened to be using at the time, just to get that much closer to him.
Although I only own a few Jimi Hendrix albums and don’t claim to be as big a fan of his work as many of his followers, I still found this book appealing. I think that even someone less familiar with his work than me could enjoy what this book has to offer. For $40, a reader can connect with a rock legend on a level that would have eluded us today, were it not for Janie Hendrix efforts at putting all these materials together. The compiled lyrics and actual writings of Hendrix’ work are so corporeal that you might feel guilty you didn’t pay more.