“The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye…until we meet again.” – Jimi Hendrix
e all know that Jimi Hendrix was to music what Einstein was to science, a fitting comparison to his virtuoso ability and incessant desire never to stop learning. However, where many can easily draw the similarity between the two as titans of their respective fields, some wouldn’t know of Hendrix’s deep appreciation for all things science fiction and, in particular, sci-fi novels. Inconsequential though they may seem to a rock star’s life, it was these books which helped shaped Jimi Hendrix’s world.
Among the books that shaped the mind of Jimi Hendrix was a host of science-fiction books, and it’s easy to see how the Hendrix and the subject intertwined and left the out of this world musician dreaming of otherworldly experiences. After all, if you had one bet on which sixties rock star was an alien from outer space, then Hendrix would be the man to aim for.
Many people will see the fantastic elements that run throughout Hendrix’s music. His power with a guitar was only matched by the furious imagination and unbridled creativity he employed to take the instrument into uncharted territory. Unlike any other musician of his time, he dared to take the music and his craft into brand new spaces that had never been explored before.
It was a bristling imagination that kept him busy in his younger years. Young James was known to carry around a broomstick as a child which he pretended to play as a guitar for over a year until he could afford one. It was a vital tool for young Jimi to escape his hectic life in Seattle.
Hendrix spent a lot of time between the hectic homes of family, friends and neighbours and during this time of continuous upheaval he needed a form of escapism. He would later find the guitar a master key to unlock his potential, but before that Hendrix usually had his head in a book and normally that book was set in fantasy land.
The musician is known to have idolised Flash Gordon and the ’30s sci-fi serial of the same name, asking people to call him ‘Buster’ after the leading man’s name.
However, Hendrix’s love of science-fiction didn’t just come from books. The guitarist is known to have claimed to see a UFO hovering over his back garden one night and, from it, began writing his own stories. He would fill notebook after notebook with stories about spaceships, aliens, and galactic battles that would make George Lucas jealous. It’s the kind of intimate detail that gives a brief insight into one of the most influential men in rock history.
As Jimi Hendrix grew, he lost the nickname of ‘Buster’ but never lost his love of science-fiction. Following his post in the Army as a paratrooper, Hendrix would go on to be a back-up guitarist for Little Richard and move in the same circles as the bassist for The Animals Chas Chandler. The pair would swap space stories with Chas lending Jimi books from his own extensive sci-fi collection to broaden his horizons.
When Hendrix arrived in London, and his songwriting began in earnest, the legend would embed his love of science-fiction in his work. He claimed that the iconic track ‘Purple Haze’ was inspired by sci-fi: “I had this thing on my mind about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea,” he said. “It’s linked to a story I read in a science fiction magazine about a purple death ray. It’s called Purple Haze—excuse me!”
This wasn’t the only kind of literature Hendrix found comfort and inspiration in though. The man was famed for his love of Bob Dylan, and more importantly, his love for the words Dylan used in his songs. Hendrix was known to have treasured a Dylan songbook and since he couldn’t read music it was the words that must’ve held weight.
Dylan and Hendrix were different in their approach both of them were experts in creating their own realities in their work: “What I like to do is write a lot of mythical scenes, like the history of the wars on Neptune and the reason Saturn’s rings are there. You can write your own mythology,” said Hendrix. Of course, the ultimate connection would come when Hendrix would define Dylan’s own song ‘All Along The Watchtower’.
It’s a train of thought which likely left the station in Jimi’s early life and dawned from his adoration of traditional fairytales and children’s books. “I love reading fairy tales, like Hans Christian Andersen, and Winnie-the-Pooh.” All of this combined love of literature and the escapist fantasies they could provide inspired Jimi to become one of the most influential artists of all time.
Take a look below at Jimi Hendrix’s favourite books and the deep love of science-fiction he had.
Jimi Hendrix’s favourite books:
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead
- The Urantia Book
- The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus by Brian Wilson Aldiss
- Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
- Night of Light by Philip José Farmer
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
- Lot by Ward Moore
- Earth Abides by George Stewart
- Secret Places of the Lion: Alien Influences on Earth’s Destiny by George Hunt Williamson