Gloomy Tunes: Happy Birthday, Jimi Hendrix!

Jimi Hendrix, arguably the greatest guitarist on this or any planet, would have turned 75 today. It’s impossible to imagine what kind of musician he would have become. One of my college roommates used to say he would have been the first guitarist to play on the moon, a claim I used to laugh at. Now, with Elon Musk and SpaceX, I’m not so sure? What would his Interstellar Overtures sound like? Sadly, we’ll never know.

But we do know (and like) what he did while alive. While he might not be here to celebrate, we are, but we’re not going with the obvious choices, such as “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Crosstown Traffic,” or his cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” This is Gloomy Tunes, after all, so our choice to honor the birthday of James Marshall Hendrix is “I Don’t Live Today,” from his 1967 debut, Are You Experienced?  

It would be easy to write the lyrics off as psychedelic doggerel, a kind of goggle-eyed “wow…look at my hand” drug epiphany, but there’s something more going on, a shaded desolation that’s much darker than the ebullient sounds.  He sings “Feel like I’m living on the bottom of a grave,”  over a chunky riff punctuated by Mitch Mitchell’s crackling snare, leading to an instrumental coda that pulls out all the stops: siren-like sustain, growling feedback, snarling tones that sound like downed electrical lines, with a jiggering solo and a false fade, while Hendrix, with a barely suppressed giggle, drawls, “there ain’t no life nowhere,” as the track gets even wilder.


FeaturedI Image Credit: Brian T. Colvil / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC


Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS.

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