jimi hendrix taught america what freedom sounds like

November 27, 2018
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Conversations about belonging and othering in America are not just about land and laws, it’s about ideas. Everything about this country that both dominates us and gives us relief is often based out of an idea; the idea of supremacy, freedom, equity and power. Of course these ideas have physical manifestations. As a citizen in this society, we have countless of examples of how these ideas (or non-belief in these ideas) negatively influence our reality. These manifestations can be domestic terrorism and inventions like homelessness and hunger in a country with more than enough wealth and resources. These manifestations can also be artistic genius.

To honor Jimi Hendrix’s birthday, we revisit his performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The national anthem is a song that supports the idea and myth of America’s strength, justice and dignity. In 1969, Jimi Hendrix in blue jeans and an afro confronted the ideas that our national anthem is supposed to represent and excavated it with an electric guitar. With each sound from his guitar, he reminded us that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a war cry for many of our siblings globally and a lullaby written by a white supremacist. Jimi Hendrix brought dignity to a song that represents a country that kills its most righteous leaders and puts at risk its most vulnerable followers. In 1969 on a stage of Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix taught a nation what freedom should sound like and music has never been the same since.