Book Review: The Ties That Bind
Rock & Roll books, bound but ungagged
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Dec. 7, 2012
Jimi Hendrix: A Brother's Storyby Leon Hendrix, with Adam Mitchell
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 288 pp., $25.99
On the day his brother died, Leon Hendrix was locked up on theft charges. For a street hustler who grew up in and out of foster care, excelled at mid-level cat burglary, and enjoyed tangential fame as a sibling of the era's most significant guitarist, it was a low point in a lifetime filled with pain and frustration. A Brother's Story holds just that, an incomparably personal account of Jimi (then Buster) Hendrix's youth. Brimming with childhood alien encounters, rose-colored memories of brotherly heroism, and familial bonds forged by desperate situations, Leon also provides insight into Jimi's musical genesis: the sonic experimentation of wire stretched across a bed frame, the Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters records forging early tastes, and the salvaged one-string ukulele that changed everything. As Leon becomes a hanger-on in Jimi's superstar circus and, later, when the book's focus devolves into the legal battles and family rifts that followed the latter's death, A Brother's Story wanes. Throughout all of it, though, you can hear Jimi's music. Leon's regard for the life force behind his brother's cosmic playing and his understanding of what the lyrics meant comes across as enlightened, while having also saved his own life.