Picks and Pans Review: Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy

updated 09/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek

The story of rock legend Hendrix has been told before.

But the guitarist's life has never been explored in such relentless detail as it is here by British music writer Shapiro and Glebbeek, keeper of a Hendrix archive in Holland. Their compendium of interviews and correspondence, though, exceeds the call of duty. For instance, their recounting of the Hendrix family tree was adequate before they added a history of the Cherokees. (Jimi had Indian blood.)

The scholarly approach ill befits Hendrix, who sprang on the world with the guitar pyrotechnics of "Are You Experienced?" in 1967. He proceeded to transform both his instrument and the flamboyant myth of the rock star until his death at age 27 in 1970.

Shapiro and Glebbeek include almost 200 pages of appendices, reference notes and bibliography. But their interpretations are suspect. For instance, Shapiro suggests that "I Don't Live Today" is about an Indian reservation without offering any evidence that that is what Hendrix had in mind. Other assertions are outlandish, such as the startling accusation that Mafia strong-arming got the group Vanilla Fudge added to a 1968 Hendrix tour.

Hendrix is a rock artist whose popularity has shown amazing staying power. His most devoted fans may relish this blizzard of detail. The less committed will find it tough plowing. (St. Martin's, $29.95)

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