Ahhh Jimi Hendrix, not one of my favorite musicians. I won’t lie, I really don’t care for the fellas take on music. It’s all a bit to experimental hippy nonsense to me. My wife, on the other hand, has always loved the guy. So, I have had my share of him, throughout our 14 years together. On this the 4th of July in the year Two Thousand and Fourteen of our lord, I would like to pause and recognize Jimi Hendrix.
Woodstock 1969, So the story goes, Jimi Hendrix wakes up the crowd to the National Anthem. His rendition of the Star Spangled Banner drips of his legendary style, and wild squealing use of the whammy bar. Even a guy like me could enjoy the wild interpretation. But somewhere in the middle, he goes all crazy, the music goes away and is replaced by wild screeching and minor chords… what kind of crap is this? He was doing so well. It has always been a sore spot for me when listening to this piece, why all the random stuff in the middle?! He brings it around for a killer ending, but still that wacky goop in the middle always rankled me.
Today, I figured I would have another listen. I pulled up the lyrics and I followed along for once. I think I finally understand. I get the chaos, and a little piece of me started to respect Mr. Hendrix a bit more. You see, the song tells the story of a night embattled during the Battle of Baltimore, during the war of 1812. The first verse tells of the sight of our flag after the dawn has finally come, and how it stood through the nights battle. The flag stood, the defenses held, the nation lived another day. In the night, that future was not certain, chaos gripped the hearts of the men, and seeing the flag waving from the explosions and fire light was the one thing that kept them going. This is where Jimi tells the story with the chaotic music, you can now start to hear the whizzing of bullets, cannon fire, screaming and chaos. “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air” The only two lines that break with the norm in Jimi’s version. It all sounds hopeless, the anthem has been lost to war, infighting, and blood. But Jimi has some hope, he brings it around again, the clear notes ringing out as the question is asked “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”.
So keep your heads up on this Independence Day, the shit looks bad, but keep your eye on the prize and look to the dawn. Jimi would want it that way. (Also, Gandalf would want you to look to the dawn.)