Top positive review
Fascinating and personal but probably low on unbiased objectivity
7 November 2010
I enjoyed the book and can recommend it. It contains a great deal of what was to me unknown information on Jimi's activities outside of the music scene and many personal insights that I found fascinating. I am a long-standing Hendrix fan and so have read most everything on Jimi plus most of the biographies. This one is unique in that it is written by someone who says she knew him personally as a 'friend' over the period of his stardom ('67-'70). Few can make that claim, and from what she writes here it appears she can fairly make that claim. Noel and Mitch have of course written biographies but I don't think either can be called 'friends' and certainly not confidants. Mitch himself admits that they didn't hang out much outside of playing together.
The only other biography with that kind of insight would be Kathy Etchingham's but this I found more interesting because it is written by a journalist who worked within and therefore understood the music industry at that time.
Consequently I found this book gives many insights that were new to me.
Also it is quite unique in that it has a chapter at the end which is an update of everything that has happened with Jim's musical legacy since his death. Only biography I know that has that, so this was informative and interesting though..., well... rather sad.
Janie, and Al Hendrix do not come out looking too good. And there is quite a bit of information that was new to me on both of them. Surprisingly neither does Buddy Miles come out looking too good in this biog.
The one failing I felt with the book was that it appears to lack much objectivity. I.e. if Sharon personally liked you, you'll get a good write up. If she didn't, then your motives and actions will be regarded in the worst possible light. Consequently Noel gets a sympathetic presentation but Mike Jeffry is presented as out-and-out evil manipulator with absolutely no saving graces. Which strikes me as a tad harsh.
Jimi of course is presented in the best possible way at almost all times, which for me again demonstrates the unobjectivity of her biography, as its clear from other reports that he could be just as much a manipulator and selfish bastard as could the rest of the people within the industry at that time. (E.g. check out Eric Clapton's autobiography).
To be fair there, she does write up how selfish and inconsiderate Hendrix was to his lawyer during the Toronto drug-bust case. But even then she tries to defend him by blaming that on the 'hanger's on' and "so called friends".
Apart from Sharon's quite remarkable implication that she can remember many 35year-old extended conversations verbatim, another flaw would be what appears to be her complete lack of understanding of or genuine appreciation of the music. But maybe that's how she could be a friend. Both Kathy Etchingham and Sharon seem to share that quality. And that doesn't detract much from the otherwise very enjoyable telling of Jimi's life and legacy.
P.S. Some of the material - especially what are given as verbatim quotes from Jimi - are of questionable authenticity. People in the know have demonstrated some of the flaws in her account.
E.g. what follows is one critique written by by Ray Rae Goldman, Archivist/Historian of the James Marshall Hendrix Foundation.
Long on drama, woefully short on credibility, August 16, 2005
While I applaud Ms. Lawrence for educating fans on the gross injustices within the Hendrix family and for having a commendable understanding of Janie Hendrix's psychological make up that is lost even on many who are within her orbit, there are some very serious credibility problems here.
While even the idle Hendrix fan knows Jimi was born in King County Hospital, (Now Harbor View) Lawrence states he was born at the home of a family friend.(Ouch). Jimi is quoted allegedly verbatim throughout the book but from some alleged tapes of interviews that no one has seen or heard and that Lawrence conveniently plans on destroying so 'no one can profit from them'. Meanwhile cigarette packs (yes, cigarette packs) and necklaces are being sold via ebay or to private collectors allegedly having belonged to Hendrix, citing Ms. Lawrence as the previous owner and source of authenticity.
At one point she allegedly quotes Hendrix as saying:
"The LSD passed around San Francisco was a fabulous discovery for me,
I'd taken acid in London but...."
Aside from Jimi's use of the word 'fabulous' being at best incredulous, the fact that Hendrix had already tried LSD in New York in 1996 before going to England and subsequently Monterey is common knowledge among afficianados and again makes all of these alleged direct quotes questionable. Those of you who have listened to and read the hundreds of hours of interviews available through collectors, official releases and press clippings will also find some of the wording of these alleged quotes that the book, and the credibility of it's author are based on, extremely suspect. At one point Ms. Lawrence even offers an alleged quote from Hendrix's mother who passed away in 1958:
"Jimi baby" she told her son "I have to escape this"
While quotes like this can illicit an emotional response from the average reader,they are clearly fictional. Throughout the book people close to Jimi are referenced but very sparsely quoted, if at all. I shared the recount of Jimi's trip to Berkeley as a small child (Pg.5) with Jimi's aunt Delores and she laughed openly and wondered aloud where people come up with these stories. This from a woman who was actually there and involved in planning said trip. While making a reference to Ernestine Benson and mistakenly referring to her husband Cornel as "Bill", Lawrence again allegedly quotes Hendrix in lieu of an actual interview with the Benson's who are both still living and have incredible first hand insights having lived with the Hendrix's.
Lawrence's assertion that Hendrix committed suicide simply because his journal was left out is no less ridiculous than Jimi's adopted stepsister Janie's claim that Jimi didn't OD. Lawrence then stops just short of gleefully giving herself credit for Monika's suicide, but the jist is clear. This book is more than a bit narcissistic with Lawrence lauding herself as much as she does her subject. While proclaiming herself to be a close confident of Hendrix' the general consensus is that she wasn't around that much, if people even know who she is at all.
For a much more well researched and credible look into Jimi's life read 'Electric Gypsy'. [This book by Sharon], while very dramatic, is rife with glaring inaccuracies and is for the most part a novel about the author and her subject, not a biography or a reliable historical record. Unless these alleged tapes that are widely quoted throughout the entire book are made available, their legitimacy and the legitimacy of the book will forever be questioned.