I appreciate author Henderson’s serious intentions, which are announced not only by his work’s sheer bulk but by its wide scope and ambitious perspective. I did, moreover, learn from and enjoy enough of this biography to suggest that Hendrix’s more ardent fans might want to take a look. For a variety of reasons, though, that’s about as positive as I can be.
For one thing, the story drags in far too many places. As sloppily assembled as it is sluggish, moreover, the book contains no index and a ridiculously large number of grammatical and other errors. We’re introduced to such botched spellings as “McCoy Tiner,” “Johnny Winters” and “Al Aronowicz” and are subjected to many repetitions of fact. We’re also presented with sentences like, “A progressive town with a strong liberal-radical spectrum, many Berkeley residents had seized a nearly block square piece of land a few blocks from campus, ‘People’s Park,’ one of the few remaining undeveloped spaces within the entire university complex, as a possible way of thwarting the free will of the university.”
The incompetence suggested by such lapses certainly doesn’t help Henderson to achieve credibility. But what most makes one question the book is his penchant for embellishing facts and inventing quotes in order to turn his research into a smooth narrative. Sure, this approach has been used successfully by other authors, but few have taken it to Henderson’s lengths. In one typical scene, he purports to give us a word-for-word account of what two women said while alone together in a ladies’ room; even if one of them was concealing a tape recorder, that wouldn’t explain such other ostensible reportage as the section where the author supposedly presents the detailed thoughts of a dying, unconscious Hendrix.