Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix

Review of Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix is a biographical book about the legendary rock guitarist, songwriter and singer Jimmy Hendrix, written by Charles R. Cross in 2005. It was symbolically released on the 35th anniversary of the musician’s death. It consists of more than 300 interviews conducted by Cross. It is remarkable that most of the people interviewed had refused to talk about Hendrix since his death.

Fans of Hendrix have their personal opinions about his life and his music. Sometimes it can be difficult to accept a position that differs from ours, but we must realize that the author of a biography delivers their own vision of the subject’s life. In any case, it is an indisputable fact that Jimmy Hendrix was a great rock-guitarist, and a founding figure of psychedelic rock. According to the magazine Rolling Stone, he was acknowledged as the best guitarist in the world (“The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, 2003).

The major idea of Room Full of Mirrors is to trace Jimi’s path to worldwide fame, taking the readers from his troubled childhood in Seattle to his studies at military school and attempts to succeed in New York City’s Greenwich Village. David Sinclair of The Guardian tells that this is an exhaustive and groundbreaking biographical book that reveals the reality of Hendrix’s life (Sinclair, 2005).

The strong point of the book is the coverage of Hendrix’s early years because it fills in many holes and illuminates the misconceptions, confusions, and half-truths about the musician’s life. We should understand that Jimi’s childhood experience, his relationships with family and struggle to become a famous musician contributed to his music and were significant factors when approaching his career. Also, the book contains several delightful and previously unpublished photographs depicting Hendrix’s service in the U.S. military and different events from his adolescence.

It seems that Jimi’s life from the very beginning depended on the goodness of his relatives and neighbors. His parents’ divorce in 1951 and the death of his mother had a huge impact on him. Hendrix’s entire life depended on randomness in his decision-making. Probably, that was all he could do. Cross is correct in his belief that music saved him from that hard life, but then he fell into the trap of music. Jimi was a talented musician, but he did not know how to change his life when it became so destructive.

Cross’ writing style is straight-forward and understandable for every almost reader. It is important to mention that in the passages about Hendrix’s childhood, his tone becomes more intimate and gentle. He seemed to sympathize with the boy whose path was complex and thorny, although in the rest of the book, the author’s voice is objective and does not affect the fabric of words.

Ben Sisario of The New York Times holds the book in high esteem: “Charles R. Cross puts a new focus on Hendrix’s childhood, revealing a lifelong psychic wound that left him, to his death at 27, seeking the love and stability he never got as a boy – from his absent, dissolute mother, who died when he was 15, or from his harsh and equally remote father” (Sisario, 2005).

Despite the strengths of this biographical writing, it has some weaknesses as well. For instance, there is no detailed discussion of music and any kind of analysis, and some names misspelled. Also, the time from 1966–1970 is superficially-written and ignores a lot of significant biographical and musical details that should not be omitted in a serious biographical book about Jimi Hendrix.

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross leaves readers with mixed feelings. It is a valuable source for readers who want to discover some new facts about the musician’s childhood and adolescence. But those who are interested in the process of making music and other technical details should choose another Jimmy Hendrix biographies which focus on these aspects.

References
Ben Sisario: “’Room Full of Mirrors’: Six-String Revolutionary”, The New York Times, August 28, 2005.
“The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, Rolling Stone, September 18, 2003.
David Sinclair: “Lost in Music”, The Guardian, September 10, 2005.
Gustavo Arellano: “Once and for All, Was Jimmy Hendrix Mexican?”, Dallas Observer, November 20, 2008.

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