It All Goes Back to Hendrix

The new issue of Rolling Stone features a series of essays on 50 “legendary” artists by musicians who aren’t quite as legendary. John Mayer contributes a well-written piece on Jimi Hendrix, saying, “He is the common denominator of every style of contemporary music.” That’s a stretch, but he makes a pretty good case.

The essay includes some vivid analogies:

“‘Little Wing’ is painfully short and painfully beautiful. It’s like your grandfather coming back from the dead and hanging out with you for a minute and a half and then going away. It’s perfect, then it’s gone.”

Mayer closes his appreciation with a nugget that appeals to me a great deal. It speaks to how we aspire to our idols but also expresses a certain comfort with the inevitably disappointing results:

“Who I am as a guitarist is defined by my failure to become Jimi Hendrix. And that’s who a lot of people have become. However far you stop on your climb to be like him, that’s who you are.”

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