Next month marks the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. Four years before High Times ever graced newsstands, the pioneer of psychedelic rock—still worshipped by hippies and stoners and guitarists alike—passed away. And yet, Hendrix still remains as enigmatic as ever.
His latent shroud of mystery often goes unchecked. Sure, there have been books and movies about his life and/or music, but most Hendrix fans can’t tell you his story. To the general, rock ’n’ roll-loving public, so much is unknown about the galvanizing guitar god.
Fortunately, a current-day revolutionary has decided to change that. Founder of Spin magazine and media entrepreneur, Bob Guccione Jr. has recently released a bookazine, chronicling Hendrix’s life and journey to musical icon.
“Jimi Hendrix was a comet, blazing across a flat sky, tearing it with a rainbow of fire, enthralling us, and then suddenly disappearing, dissolving into the blackness and emptiness,” Guccione writes in his introduction to The Unknown Hendrix. “Magical, brilliant and gone.”
The allure of glitter, the mystery of the unknown, the resurgence of genius—all reasons why Guccione chose Hendrix as the first topic for his new series of musical biographies. Not to mention, Hendrix is a “personal favorite.”
“Jimi embodied rock ’n’ roll,” Guccione told High Times. “He was uncontainable, the same way The Beatles were uncontainable, but so little is really known about him. I wanted to lead readers to freshness, with a narrative that was very intimate and informal.”
Abandoning the scrapbook, copy-and-paste template of other bookazines, The Unknown Hendrix was originally written from start to finish by one author—making it “more like a book with the accessibility of a magazine” and delivering fresh content through an innovative vehicle.
And according to Guccione, Hendrix’s four albums (yes, that’s all he recorded) are entirely the tip of the iceberg. There are troves of unknown (or forgotten) trivia about the first massive black artist.
“He was the biggest hippie in the most wonderful sense,” Guccione explained. “He was full of love and spirit. He was first and foremost an artist living in the moment. People tend to lump him in a whole psychedelic soup, but in general, that perception isn’t entirely accurate.”
In fact, the star who is so closely associated with drug culture reportedly didn’t have his first experience with psychedelics until 1966. And, when he was first offered acid by a friend, Hendrix declined, before saying that he wouldn’t mind trying LSD instead.
“Society and culture were breaking out of their chrysalis,” Guccione said. “Youth culture could express itself for the first time. Hendrix wasn’t self-destructive, wasn’t a real drug addict. He tended to do drugs the way many young people do today, experimentally.”
“He had a rapacious appetite for experience,” Guccione continued. “He had no sense that drugs could hurt him. He was a free spirit, excessive in spirit—not a drug spokesman.”
While the details of Hendrix’s last days remain disputed, most agree that he died of an accidental barbiturate overdose on September 18, 1970. Four albums in four years, then he was gone.
“Hendrix laid a foundation stone in the greatest and only bloodless revolution ever, the historic way rock ’n’ roll at the end of the ‘60s changed the world,” Guccione eloquently surmised.
To all the stoners who idolize Jimi, here’s your chance to learn everything you didn’t know about the immortal musician—and, lets be real, we’re all more likely to read a provoking magazine than to pick up a dense tome.
The Unknown Hendrix is available now at all major newsstands, and make sure to look out for Guccione’s upcoming musical bookazine on Led Zeppelin.