Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix

WILD THING                                                 PHILIP NORMAN

Over fifty years after his death, Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970) is celebrated as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. But before he was setting guitars and the world aflame, James Marshall Hendrix was a shy kid in Seattle, plucking at a broken ukulele and in fear of a father who would hit him for playing left-handed. Bringing Jimi’s story to vivid life against the backdrop of midcentury rock, and with a wealth of new information, acclaimed music biographer Philip Norman delivers a captivating and definitive portrait of a musical legend.

Drawing from unprecedented access to Jimi’s brother, Leon Hendrix, who provides disturbing details about their childhood, as well as Kathy Etchingham and Linda Keith, the two women who played vital roles in Jimi’s rise to stardom, Norman traces Jimi’s life from playing in clubs on the segregated Chitlin’ Circuit, where he encountered daily racism, to barely surviving in New York’s Greenwich Village, where was taken up by the Animals’ bass player Chas Chandler in 1966 and exported to Swinging London and international stardom.

For four staggering years, from 1966 to 1970, Jimi totally rewrote the rules of rock stardom, notably at Monterey and Woodstock (where he played his protest-infused rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner”), while becoming the highest-paid musician of his day. But it all abruptly ended in the shabby basement of a London hotel with Jimi’s too-early death. With remarkable detail, Wild Thing finally reveals the truth behind this long-shrouded tragedy.

Norman’s exhaustive research reveals a young man who was as shy and polite in private as he was outrageous in public, whose insecurity about his singing voice could never be allayed by his instrumental genius, and whose unavailing efforts to please his father left him searching for the family he felt he never truly had. Filled with insights into the greatest moments in rock history, Wild Thing is a mesmerizing account of music’s most enduring and endearing figures.


My wife was able to receive this book from Netgalley for an honest review. Knowing that I am not only a huge rock and roll fan but that I have been listening to Hendrix since before we got together, and I still listen to him to this day. I grew up in a small desert town that had just one record store and back in the late 60’s early 70’s when my parents would go grocery shopping I was allowed to go next door to the music store, would not happen in this day and age. Playing on the turntable was a 45 of Hendrix doing the Star Spangled Banner from Woodstock, had my allowance bought that and Are you Experience, even though the album had me out a while when I bought it I was 11 and yes my father was upset but I had already opened it and that afternoon was listening to it still have it still listen to it. Worked at getting my children to see his brilliance, wife not so much.
Back to the book. An excellent story of his life from childhood and then into his time with the 101st until he was discharged. Then goes into his travels around to various small bands he played learning his craft. Playing then with the Isley Brothers band and then leaving them for Little Richard. He would also played with Curtis Knight, but in 66 he moved to England and Linda Keith who at the time helped him to be discovered, she was a model and was dating Keith Richards, but introduce Jimi to Chas Chandler who was with the Animals. After he heard him he knew he was onto someone different. Linda was also cousin to Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, so she knew as well. This leads you to when he is with different people making music and he turns up all the nobs to the highest which no one had done before and plays. Everyone their still to this day says it was magical and his music was born.
You have then whisked away through many women, different tours in Europe and the U.S. wanting to get his music out, one album was done wanting to do more. It felt like constant movement constant travel never being able to breathe then you add the drugs it was a never-ending cycle. You do get a look at different concerts but also at how many people were pulling at him, this would continue after his death as people would fight over his rights. Just the thing is sad. His music is and was great just everyone or the business was not. Overall a really good book and very much worth the read. Received this book from Netgalley.com Gave it 5 stars. Follow us at

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