Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience

Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience

by Greg Tate
     
 

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Jimi Hendrix's social meaning, his sexual mystery, and his scientific explorations in the field of sound are addressed here from a black perspective. This unique introduction to a man who, despite his popular appeal, has never made it into the pantheon of 20th-century black icons, incorporates extensive interviews with black Americans who shed light on

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Overview

Jimi Hendrix's social meaning, his sexual mystery, and his scientific explorations in the field of sound are addressed here from a black perspective. This unique introduction to a man who, despite his popular appeal, has never made it into the pantheon of 20th-century black icons, incorporates extensive interviews with black Americans who shed light on Hendrix’s complicated racial relationships. Midnight Lightning explores how Hendrix exploded the complacently segregated world to emerge as an icon for white boys, why his songs were not heard on black radio, and why black people once viewed him as a hippie Uncle Tom. Also explored are his connection to the Black Power movement, how he electrified soul music and made the electric guitar supplant the human voice, how he revolutionized the use of technology in popular music, and how black his music really was. This biography discusses his sex appeal—especially for black women—how he redefined rock fashion, why nobody was really mad at him for sleeping with white women (at the same time as Sammy Davis, Jr. was being harassed and threatened for kissing a white woman onstage), and how he was marketed as a white performer. Explained are the ways in which Hendrix subverted and destabilized black masculine stereotypes, changing the way black music and black identity are perceived.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Must read for any hardcore Hendrix fan, classic rock enthusiast or budding music listener.” —Black Beat

“An excellent variation on the hindsight conjecture found in much of the existing material on Hendrix. Recommended for all libraries.” —Library Journal

“A jumpy, fast-talking take on Jimi Hendrix. . . . Tate is smart and playful.” —Kirkus

VIBE
At times Lightning hits like a bolt.
The Onion
Few writers are better equipped to tackle such questions than Greg Tate . . . bursts with ideas.
Wilson Quarterly
A remarkably astute examination of Hendrix's protean talents . . . Tate writes with an engaging, highly stylized voice.
Upscale
An engaging and refreshing read from start to finish.
St. Petersburg Times
One of the most original and linguistically inventive cultural observers in print . . . marvelously head-whirling phraseology.
Relix
Like no biography that has come before.
Black Issues Book Review
[Tate's] dead-on logic is intriguing and revealing.
N'Music
A testament to how much the enigmatic guitarist still affects American culture.
Black Beat
Must read for any hardcore Hendrix fan, classic rock enthusiast or budding music listener.
Library Journal
"This is not Everyman's Guide to Jimi Hendrix," forewarns Tate, a longtime staff writer for the Village Voice; it's a book with a racial agenda: "A Jimi book with plantation baggage, darkskin biases, and Black Power axes to grind." Tate avoids the tablature and Claptonisms that pervade many of the romantic revisions of Hendrix's brief life as an influential guitar god. Instead, he addresses the demographic paradox of Jimi's public image. Although his musical and social roots were dark black, Hendrix was marketed as white and seemingly could break, with impunity, as many social taboos as he could musical taboos (e.g., dating white girls when similar offenses earned Sammy Davis Jr. death threats). Tate shows how Hendrix's disregard for the race card put him decades ahead in society, as well as in music. The book's extended anecdotes by blacks who knew Jimi are as much sawdust as they are profound, but an astrological analysis of Jimi's life is an excellent variation on the hindsight conjecture found in much of the existing material on Hendrix. Recommended for all libraries.-Eric Hahn, West Des Moines, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A jumpy, fast-talking take on Jimi Hendrix—the social meaning, the sexual mystery, and the music of a "musician�s musician." "Race, sex, technology, and Jimi Hendrix—these will position the coordinates on this star map," explains music journalist Tate (Everything But the Burden, not reviewed). Hendrix was super-elevated for the author, "a living embodiment of all our racial fears, romantic fantasies, otherworldly dreams, and radical desires," and the writer�s spellbound pyrotechnics can tend at once toward hagiography and hyperbole. Did Hendrix, asks Tate, embody our racial fears, or was he a shape-shifter who could shred racial shibboleths, receiving exceptional "treatment from whites because he was not perceived as a political threat . . . traveled in white company, drew a white crowd, kept a white band, and, oh yeah, bedazzled the Hostiles in a field considered a white man�s province"? Was the inventive life force he found in the Fender Strat based in rhythm and blues, soul, and jazz, or was it a fiery marriage of storefront gospel singer, barwalking saxophonist, and Delta blues? Tate makes Hendrix into a fascinating lawbreaker and Rosetta stone, liquid and languid, "a supersignifier of Post-Liberate Black Consciousness," possibly "what life as a Black Man without fear of a white planet might look like, feel like, taste like." Erotic, destructive, chaotic, yet a gentleman too, sartorially definitive, and, oh boy, a musician who could play a loud bolthole to the cosmic, "except [that] the ecumenical Hendrix wanted to pursue a path to cosmos that would be accessible to the average American Pop fan." Tate is smart and playful, speculating on what might have been if the wine andsleeping pills hadn�t done their work, crafting "some Borgesian fluff for this occasion, confections turned fictions." Tate wanders over the Hendrix landscape everywhere and in awe, offering a cerebral and gingery reminder of his subject�s social and musical revolution. (4 b&w photos)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781556524691
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
06/28/2003
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.64(d)

Meet the Author

Greg Tate has been a staff writer at The Village Voice since 1986. He has also contributed to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Premiere, Downbeat, and Artforum. He is the author of Flyboy in the Buttermilk and the forthcoming Everything but the Burden: What Whites Are Taking from Black Culture. A producer, founding member of the Black Rock Coalition, and a working musician, Tate's band Burnt Sugar has been acclaimed by The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and JazzTimes among others. He lives in New York City.

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