Move over, Rover, and let Jimi take over!
Books about Jimi Hendrix, edited and signed by the guitar virtuoso’s stepsister, Janie Hendrix, have been given to Oberlin Schools and the Langston Middle School student who contacted her.
Seeking extra credit for a research project on Hendrix in May, 13-year-old Anna Dedecek emailed Janie Hendrix.
A few days later, Anna received a surprise package at the school with copies of “Jimi Hendrix: An Illustrated Experience” and “Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Lyric Book.”
Barbara Stadler, Dedecek’s teacher, also received copies of the book and there were two copies for the school library. The books contain rare lyrics and photos of the late guitar legend.
Given the millions of fans of Hendrix, Anna said she was shocked to hear back from his stepsister and receive the books. “I thought it was amazing,” said Anna, who will enter the eighth grade next month.
Anna said she learned about Hendrix while reading a biography of Kurt Cobain, another Seattle rock star who died young. Anna, who has played electric guitar and plays saxophone in the school band, said her favorite Hendrix songs are “Bleeding Heart” and “All Along the Watchtower.”
The first is a cover of a song by blues great Elmore James. The second was written by Bob Dylan, whom Hendrix admired.
The haunting opening guitar chords in the Hendrix version are among the most unique and memorable in rock history. They are rivaled by the intro to “Purple Haze,” the song most closely identified with Hendrix and the acid-rock era.
Anna said Hendrix’s music is “intense.” She appreciates Janie Hendrix keeping her stepbrother’s legacy alive and sending her a gift.”It’s great,” she said.
Anna chose to research Hendrix as part of a school project her class was doing on the 1960s. Other 60s icons researched by students were boxer and activist Muhammad Ali and Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party.
Stadler, who has taught at the Oberlin Schools and Langston since 2000, said she was “blown away” by receiving the books. She encouraged Anna to email Janie Hendrix after Anna said she wanted to earn extra credit.
“She’s a top-notch student,” Stadler said. “Very astute (and) global-minded.”
Valeria Dedecek, Anna’s mother, said she appreciates Stadler encouraging her daughter. “She’s a very, very committed teacher,” Dedecek said.
Hendrix was just 27 when he died in 1970, choking to death in his sleep after taking sleeping pills and drinking alcohol.
But his unique sound and showmanship — he played behind his back, with his teeth, and lit his guitar on fire on stage — made him unforgettable.
“Jimi was an amazing artist, musician, and songwriter,” Janie Hendrix said in an email interview. “I worked on these books to educate and inspire people with Jimi’s art and lyrics.”
Hendrix overcame a troubled childhood, according to “Jimi Hendrix” a biography by Sean Piccoli. His mother, Lucille Hendrix, was an alcoholic who gave birth to him at 16. She left home when he was seven and died eight years later at 32 from cirrhosis of the liver.
In “Jimi Hendrix, A Brother’s Story” by Leon Hendrix and Adam Mitchell, Leon Hendrix recalled his older brother comforting him as they hid in the closet as little boys when their parents fought.
Leon Hendrix also recalled he and his brother sipping beer left by their mother as young boys. Both would struggle with heroin addictions as adults.
Although she was just nine when her stepbrother died, Janie Hendrix said she has fond memories of a “sweet, spiritual, loving person.” She said there are many things casual fans may not know about her stepbrother.
He was a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne before injuring his back in a parachute accident and being honorably discharged in 1962. He loved to paint and backed up artists such as the Isley Brothers and Little Richard before hitting it big.
Hendrix said she hopes the book donations will encourage students to learn more about her stepbrother.
“Jimi was a prophet spreading his message of love and peace through sound and words,” she said.”His legacy is the music he left behind. The lyrics are his soul.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Provided photos Anna Dedecek, a 13-year-old Langston Middle School student, shows one of two books about guitarist Jimi Hendrix sent to her by his step-sister, Janie Hendrix. Janie Hendrix wrote and autographed the books.