Jimi Hendrix the Subject of New D.A. Pennebaker Film

Legendary filmmaker searches for the guitarist's legacy with the help of Los Lobos, Roseanne Cash, others

February 18, 1999
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix backstage at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Ed Caraeff/Getty Images

Few musicians have exerted as profound an impact as Jimi Hendrix, and a new hour-long documentary demonstrates how pervasive his influence has been. In Searching for Jimi Hendrix, legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and his partner, Chris Hegedus, speak to artists as diverse as Los Lobos, Chuck D, Rosanne Cash and Cassandra Wilson about the guitarist's effect on their lives and work. They also film those artists – and others like Laurie Anderson, Charlie Musselwhite and Mark Isham – recording versions of Hendrix's songs.

The project began, strangely, as a search for the smashed, incinerated guitar Hendrix hurled into the audience at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 – the subject of Pennebaker's classic documentary Monterey Pop. When that proved too complicated, Hendrix's former producer Alan Douglas began lining up musicians to cover some of the guitarist's material. The idea was to generate an album and an accompanying documentary. Music-industry reshuffling has delayed the album's release; Pennebaker and Hegedus no longer even know who's overseeing that aspect of the project. The filmmakers, who had worked for nearly two years, simply got tired of waiting: "We just decided we made this film and we might as well release it, because it's kind of nice," Pennebaker says. The film will premiere on the Bravo Channel on February 12th and then will have subsequent showings.

Jimi Hendrix: The Man and the Music

Many of the performances in the film, though presented in unfinished form, are riveting. In particular, Laurie Anderson beautifully evokes the post-apocalyptic, underwater world of "1983"; Los Lobos fire up a letter-perfect reading of "Are You Experienced"; and Neville Staples of the Specials concocts a rough-house, dance-hall rendition of "Up From the Skies." "I also thought it was wonderful how Chuck D took eight bars of music from a Hendrix concert in Atlanta and wrote this totally personal rap about Jimi and what he meant," Hegedus says. "It's very powerful."

So does the film find Hendrix? "No," says Pennebaker, laughing. "We found a lot of people who have some aspect of him in their heads that they can't get rid of. It's amazing the messages that came out of that guy."

This story is from the February 18th, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

More Song Stories entries »