There are certain anniversaries guaranteed to make one feel old. Sometimes they come as a birthday, sometimes as a commemoration of a certain number of years being married.
Occasionally, a not-so-welcome reminder of advancing years results when a long gone famous person from our youth is celebrated for what would have been his birthday had he been fortunate enough to live till now.
Such a celebrity was Jimi Hendrix, perhaps the original acid rock musician, who this past week would have been 70 years old had he lived past what is commonly referred to as the 1960s. “Commonly referred to” as the ‘60s because those of us who survived it know the era actually lasted through the early 1970s.
Not all of us did — survive it, that is. For his part, Hendrix checked out of planet Earth on Sept. 18, 1970, compliments of illicit drugs, the bane of that decade as well as all others between then and now.
“Purple haze was in my brain,” Hendrix famously sang, and he meant it.
“…actin’ funny but I don’t know why. ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.”
It is doubtful he intended those lyrics to be the harbinger of imminent demise they turned out to be when his body succumbed to sleeping pills and who knows what else at the tender age of 27. In that way, his death was a portent of things to follow. A few short months later, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison would also die prematurely, and for the same reason – drugs.
“…Purple Haze all around. Don’t know if I’m coming up or down. Am I happy or in misery? Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me.”
Some disagree with interpreting “that girl” as a reference to drugs. But later in the same song Hendrix sings, “…I’m talkin’ about hard stuff.” It is no secret he was a fan of ingesting significant quantities of LSD and heroin — which certainly rate as “hard stuff.”
“Purple haze all in my eyes, uhh, don’t know if it’s day or night. You got me blowin,’ blowing’ my mind. Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?”
It was both. For those of us still around to listen to the music, this is the tomorrow he crooned about so long ago. Unfortunately for him, it was the end of time, at least on this earthly plane.
His memory obviously lives on, however. My own personal poll of younger people (which is to say 25- to 30-somethings) surprised me. All knew the name, though the younger they were the more unsure they were of details regarding his music or life.
In its own way, this youthful acknowledgment was comforting. The fact he is still a recognizable entity with people 35 years my junior means my generation — ancient though we may be — can still claim some measure of cultural relevance – even if it does only hang by a thread.