Book review – ‘Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix’ by Charles Cross (2005)

 

What an amazing performer Jimi Hendrix must have been. Wildly charismatic, shockingly sexual and a flamboyant showman, Hendrix’s career was as short and spectacular as a shooting star. This new biography reveals both the legendary stage presence and the vulnerable man behind the iconic image. Written by acclaimed Seattle journalist Charles R. Cross, it is an extensively researched, sensitive and insightful look at a complicated character.

Named after one of Hendrix’s most autobiographical songs, “Room Full of Mirrors” covers the great musician’s life in vivid detail, from his early days as a “latchkey kid” to his whirlwind first tour of England, the tumultuous end of the hippy dream and, of course, his wretched death in a hotel bed, aged just 27. Particularly impressive is the way Cross traces how Hendrix’s distinctive and unmatched guitar style (memorably described here as “a visionary, brilliant accident”) developed during his time as an impoverished session musician and freewheeling gun-for-hire.

Cross never shies away from the darker side of Hendrix’s character, his mistreatment of women and drug-addled flakiness, but sees him as an essentially sympathetic figure, a man who never truly escaped the loneliness of his early years. Destined to be considered the definitive Hendrix biography, “A Room Full of Mirrors” may well be one of the best portraits of a rock musician ever written.

Originally appeared in: Good Reading

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