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Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix Paperback – August 9, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cross (Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain) turns his thoughtful eye toward another Seattle music icon, Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970). With a storyteller's eye, he captures Hendrix's difficult, poverty-stricken childhood with alcoholic and largely absent parents, rendering it as tragic yet not without its happy, tender moments. After a stint as an army paratrooper, Hendrix knocked around playing guitar in blues clubs in the 1960s, winding up in New York and eventually London, where he established himself as a guitar god, even earning the adulation of the Beatles, before exploding onto the U.S. scene with a 1967 appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. While replete with tales of rock star excess, Cross's narrative, based on more than 300 interviews, describes Hendrix as thoughtful and craving some semblance of order to his life, even as it became steeped in drug use. Of Hendrix's death at age 27, viewed by many as a possible suicide, Cross makes the best case yet for it being accidental, portraying Hendrix as exhausted, unable to sleep and likely taking nine sleeping pills without much thought. There are a number of Hendrix bios already available, but Cross's surpasses them all, both in terms of research and execution. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Vet rock scribe Cross delivers one of the best biographies to date of the late guitar god Jimi Hendrix. Although there is no shortage of bios--or posthumously released recordings--of Hendrix, Cross distinguishes this effort with information gleaned from interviews with primary sources, including Hendrix's surviving family members. Cross is able to provide a fresher and more detailed portrait than appeared in Al Hendrix's (Jimi's deceased father) autobiography, including updates on the intra-family squabbles caused by Al's will. A fuller picture of Hendrix's formative years and the odd dynamic that infused the relationship of Al and Jimi's mother, Lucille, consequently emerges. Theirs was a troubled relationship, rife with adultery and the suspicion, frequently voiced by Al, that not all of the couple's children were biologically his. In addition to the family dirt, Cross covers all the usual Hendrix bases and then some. Was Jimi bisexual? Quite possibly. Did the DAR call for the Monkees to kick the fledgling Jimi Hendrix Experience off their 1967 tour? No; that was a publicity stunt by manager Chas Chandler. Did Hendrix enjoy his seminal involvement with the Plaster Casters? You bet. Admirably comprehensive and well referenced, this is the Hendrix biography to acquire if you can acquire only one. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; Reprint edition (August 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786888415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786888412
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles R. Cross graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a degree in creative writing. At the UW, he served as editor of the Daily in 1979, and caused a major ruckus when he left the front page of the newspaper blank. The only type was a small line that read "The White Issue," in deference to the Beatles' White Album.

After college, Cross served as editor of The Rocket, the Northwest's music and entertainment magazine, from 1986 through 2000. The Rocket was hailed as "the best regional music magazine in the nation" by the L.A. Reader, and it was the first publication ever to run a story on Nirvana. Cross wrote stories on such seminal Northwest bands as The Wailers, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser-known bands. In addition to The Rocket, Cross's writing has appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, Spin, Guitar World, Q, Uncut, and Creem. He has also written for many newspapers and alternative weeklies, including the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He has lectured and read at universities and colleges around the world, and has frequently been interviewed for film, radio, and television documentaries, including VH1's "Behind the Music."

Cross is the author of seven books, including 2005's Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (published by Hyperion in the U.S., and Hodder in the U.K.). His 2001 release, Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography of Kurt Cobain (Hyperion/Hodder), was a New York Times bestseller and was called "one of the most moving and revealing books ever written about a rock star" by the Los Angeles Times. In 2002, Heavier Than Heaven won the ASCAP Timothy White Award for outstanding biography. Cross's other books include the national bestseller Cobain Unseen (Little Brown), Backstreets: Springsteen, the Man and His Music (Harmony, 1989); Led Zeppelin: Heaven and Hell (Harmony, 1992); and Nevermind: The Classic Album (Schirmer, 1998).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I don't know what the deal is with all these other reviewers (including the professional reviewing services), who claim this to be the best biography of Jimi Hendrix. That claim is erroneous, and I can only assume these are personal friends of the author or people who have been paid to hype the book. As a biography of Jimi Hendrix, I would rank this book as "good" or maybe even "very good" but certainly not "excellent" or "outstanding." Having read through this book twice, I have backed off of the harshness of my initial review, and I offer my apology to the author. However, the truth is we all get tired of the endless corporate hyping of every new product as "The Greatest" this or that. That is a very hard claim to live up to in this case, given the fact that several well-written bios of Jimi Hendrix are currently available.

If this book had been more honestly titled, it would have been called "Jimi Hendrix - The Early Years" and would have ended with Jimi meeting Chas Chandler in 1966 (i.e. around page 153 out of about 370 total pages of text). In all fairness, the book does have several strong points. It is a pleasant and informative read written from a sympathetic perspective. The author has interviewed an impressive number of people, many of whom have not gone on record before. It includes a tremendous amount of new detail on Jimi's early years (childhood in Seattle, years in the military and on the road, hustling in New York City) than other bios - probably a result of the fact that this author is a resident of Jimi's hometown of Seattle and was able to gain access to his early friends and family members.
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Format: Hardcover
Well, how to begin? First let's face it, most Jimi Hendrix fans are somewhat obsessive when it comes to him. And we each have our own individual opinions about him, his music, and his life. And it is hard for some of us to accept any deviation from our beliefs. I like to think when it comes to Jimi, all you really need to know about him can be found in his music. His hopes, his fears, his loves, his demons.

That being said, I still enjoy reading about Jimi and how he lived and how he made his music. So consequently, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Cross's book. While some may criticize it because it does not delve deeply enough into the music and how Jimi made it, I feel that in a round about way it does just that. Jimi's life, all of his childhood experiences, his life on the Chitlin' circuit, his struggle to become recognized as a musician, all contributed in some way to his music and how he approached his career and his song writing. Now this book may not go into a lot of detail when he comes to the technical aspects of his music, but that's okay, because there are several other excellent books about Jimi that do just this.

I found this book to be well written and insightful when it comes to Jimi's childhood. It appears that Jimi from the beginning depended on the kindness of neighbors and relatives. I simply cannot imagine living the way he did as a child and I cannot even fathom what it did to Jimi and how it shaped his life. That part of the book was very sad. One thing is apparent, however; Jimi his entire life depended on happenstance or serendipity in his decision making. I guess he knew no other way. He just believed that things would work out eventually.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I realized the author wasn't even around during the time Jimi was playing, I almost wrote the book off on that basis. That would have been a huge mistake.

My very special friend, Glenn, obtained two tickets to see Jimi at Madison Square Garden, and invited me along. The music was incredible. I still recall All Along the Watchtower, and much of what was on Electric Ladyland. The stage was in the center of the house and it slowly turned. To make things even wierder, tons of picture flashes continued to go off. I have often thought Jimi must have disliked having that stage turn and nothing being done about all the camera flashes, as though he was in the circus, and when the book got to that show, it confirmed my assumption.

On a second occasion, with my same friend, we went to see what was billed as the "Festival for Peace" at Madison Square Garden, but fortunately this time, the stage was at the end of the floor and stationary. Jimi played just a few songs, and I was utterly blown away with a smile ear to ear. Wish you were all there, as attempting to explain that experience is impossible to do with words. After just a few songs, Jimi let his guitar fall to the floor and walked off stage. I never understood what the problem was, since he sounded amazing. The book touches on that show as well and provides insight.

As I began reading this book, I was a bit turned off by all the detail behind Jimi's family, and very young years, but this detail proved essential in having a proper context to understand much that followed, choices Jimi made, and revealed Jimi the person, not the star.

This book is an excellent place to start, or finish, for that matter, for any one looking to read about Jimi.
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