Hailed for its astounding portrait of Jimi Hendrix, Philip Norman’s Wild Thing has become the definitive biography of rock’s most outrageous—and tragic—genius.
Today, 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. Bringing Hendrix’s story to vivid life against the backdrop of midcentury rock, and interweaving new interviews with friends, lovers, bandmates, and his family, Wild Thing vividly reconstructs Hendrix’s remarkable career, from playing segregated clubs on the Chitlin’ Circuit to achieving stardom in Swinging London.
In this rollicking biography, Norman (Paul McCartney) follows the electric guitar god from hardscrabble Seattle boyhood to enormous fame and his 1970 martyrdom to rock-star excess. (The author's lengthy postmortem considers conspiracy theory suspects his manager, the mafia, the CIA before returning to the official line that he overdosed on sleeping pills and drowned in his vomit.) Norman styles Hendrix as a great Black crossover pioneer who founded heavy metal with his flamboyant stagecraft and use of feedback and other effects in his virtuosic solos, which saw him play guitars with his teeth and behind his back and then hump, burn, and smash his instruments in ritual sacrifice. (Offstage, Hendrix is more shy naif than rock demon in Norman's telling.) Norman combines colorful, energetic picaresque "It might have been a brilliant duet had not Morrison been helplessly drunk and ruined the recording by shouting I want to suck your cock' at Jimi until Janis Joplin subdued him by breaking a bottle over his head" with lush evocations of Hendrix's sound. (One solo "resembles a thrillride through some extraterrestrial cityscape, each gush of the slide like a glowing elevator, sibiliantly ascending or descending.") Norman's entertaining, psychedelically tinged portrait shows why Hendrix made such a deep impression on rock 'n' roll.