nelson george: how jimi hendrix music changed my life

December 4, 2019
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Each of us has felt like an outsider at some point in our lives. In the animated video Band of Gypsys: Music That Changed Lives, the Black culture critic and music historian, Nelson George discusses how his journey as an outsider began when he listened to Jimi Hendrix as a youth in a 1970s Brownsville (Brooklyn) where rock-guitar music was not considered Black at all.

The video’s narrative is adapted from George’s liner notes for the recently released Hendrix box-set, Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts, which documents the New Year’s Eve 1969-70 shows at which the guitarist introduced his new band, Band of Gypsys.  Nelson shares how in the early ’70s — when even other “alternative” artists such as Sly and the Family Stone achieved a popularity in the Black community — Jimi Hendrix, his style and musicality, was still considered an alien. He describes Jimi as a “gateway drug to other forms of musical addiction” that would transform the listener forever.

And as a Black womxn whose journey to proud outsider status began by rocking bands like Pantera and Crossfade at Spinal Tap volume (“11″), from the 19th floor of a building in the Uptown projects, I can wholly relate.