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Jimi Hendrix on PBS 'American Masters': Taking a rock legend seriously

The venerable PBS series American Masters — deep-dish documentary portraits of American artists — has a tradition of healthy eclecticism, incorporating select figures from popular culture into its generally highbrow mix. In the years since the series began in 1985, its subjects have included such diverse pop giants as Woody Allen, the Doors, Clint Eastwood, Annie Leibovitz, Marvin Gaye, Jeff Bridges, and Johnny Carson. (Just last night, the series re-broadcast Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ marvelous 1998 documentary about Lou Reed.) That said, the notion of American Masters devoting an episode to Jimi Hendrix, the guitar visionary of purple blues-rock psychedelia, has an almost mischievously counterintuitive ring. What next, Metallica? Iggy Pop? (I say why not: If Inside the Actors Studio can feature the cast of Arrested Development, then surely American Masters can do Iggy.) Yes, Jimi Hendrix was a genius — arguably the most brilliant and influential electric guitar player of the last half century. Yet his legend is drenched in ’60s sensationalism: the drugs, the noise, the royal Carnaby Street pimp clothes, the whole grand quest for a kind of aural annihilation. READ FULL STORY

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