We all know that Jimi Hendrix was to music what Einstein was to science – such was his virtuoso ability. But where many can easily draw the similarity between the two many wouldn’t know of Hendrix’s deep appreciation for all things science fiction, and in particular sci-fi novels. Among the list of books which shaped the mind of Jimi Hendrix was a host of sci-fi books, and it’s easy to see how the Hendrix and the subject intertwine.
Many people will be able to see the fantastical elements in Hendrix’s music. His power with a guitar was only matched by the imagination and creativity he employed to take the instrument into uncharted territory. It was an imagination that kept him busy in his younger years. Hendrix 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.
The young boy spent a lot of time between the hectic homes of family, friends and neighbours and during this time 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. He’s 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.
Hendrix’s love of science-fiction didn’t just come from books though. 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.
As Jimi Hendrix grew, he lost the nickname of ‘Buster’ but never lost his love of sci-fi. 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 with the bassist fro The Animals Chas Chandler. The pair would swap space stories with Chas lending Jimi books from his own extensive collection.
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. 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.
While 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.
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.
- 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
Source: Radical Reads