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HENDRIX: The Illustrated Story

By Shelly Harris, Chicago Contributor
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 12:57 AM

- advertisement -
HENDRIX: The Illustrated Story
By Gillian G. Gaar
Voyageur Press, 2017

This Jimi Hendrix biography and "Illustrated Story" is designed to appeal and function on several different levels, and, in that respect, it would be a valuable acquisition for either a serious or casual Hendrix aficionado.

The publication is being released to coincide with what would have been Hendrix's 75th birthday (November 27, 1942), and, according to the PR flier from the publisher, it is "the first full-blown illustrated gift book exploring the life and career of the man most consider to be the greatest rock guitarist of all time."

First off, the book is a compilation of many things, including the musician's very detailed "selected live appearances" and "selected discography." It also includes a vast array of glossy PR and private photos, reproductions of tickets, posters, and other memorabilia, and a biography that was essentially culled from many different primary and secondary sources (to be discussed further down).

While much - if not most - of the contents of the book, including the photos and interview and biographical excerpts, have appeared in voluminous sources elsewhere, this book does bring it all together in one place and in a very attractive and appealing package that includes great art-design of the layout. It's roughly 9 X 10 X 1 inches, making it manageable magazine size, and features a black velvet/black light-ready cover design that is cool and attention-grabbing and yet small enough to fit on a side or coffee table for ongoing perusal.

In short, with at least one high resolution visual or photo (and often more) on every one of its 224 glossy pages, excepting the resource pages at the end, this compilation can be appreciated as a quick browse, or as an in-depth resource, whichever suits the situation.

As for the biographical content, it is a very detailed synthesis of material from over 60 Hendrix-related magazine and newspaper interviews and articles, 30 books (including biographies and autobiographies of Hendrix associates), and 15 websites (all listed in the Bibliography at the end). The primary author, Gillian G. Gaar (accompanied by four other credited co-writers listed on the inner sleeve: Dave Hunter, Harvey Kubernik, Chris Salewicz, and Jaan Uhelszki), starts at the beginning of Hendrix's life and goes into every detail about his personal and professional evolution.

For true Hendrix buffs, not much of the compiled, seven-chapter "illustrated story" will be news, but Gaar does do her homework on her subject, and analyzes and synthesizes those vast primary resources into a smooth-reading and well-edited prose. In fact, the text often reads as though Gaar herself was there in the moment to see and hear things people thought and said firsthand, and from which she then makes inferences ... but therein lies a small problem for this reader. Throughout most of the book, these inferences obviously rely on articles, interviews and books written by others. And, while the Bibliography at the end of the book is very detailed and academically complete, and while Gaar herself is the author of five of the sixty articles listed as resources, there are large chunks of prose or even quotes where thorough citations were in order, but not present, often making it difficult to tell when the author is paraphrasing another or multiple other sources, or exactly which other source, or, if the original author is being referenced, which particular source from that author it came from. Confusingly, too, certain quotes are actually attributed to "the author" or "this author."

But, while more thoroughness with respect to citing sources within the actual text of this type of compiled biography is a particular criticism from a journalist's viewpoint, most potential purchasers are unlikely to be bothered by it and might be glad for the ease it brings to the reader. That said, if you need reading glasses, you will definitely need them for the text portion of the book, other than the first page of each chapter, as it is written in small and light print.

Of course, all of the above leads to the conclusion that the primary reason for the text or "the story" in the first place is merely to give historical context to the many fantastic photos and the menagerie of memorabilia, some of which are in full page, HD color. It is an "Illustrated History" after all, and this book gets full stars and op-art fireworks on that very component.

3.5 Out Of 5.0

Grab your copy of HENDRIX: The Illustrated Story in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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