Ignored Obscured Restored
Jimi Hendrix is well known as the GOAT of rock guitarists. And I don’t disagree with that. But I will argue that he was much more. He was a total artist that had insights and sensitivities that he expressed through his lyrics.
One of the best examples is “Castles Made of Sand” from Axis: Bold as Love (1967).
(Sorry, no full Hendrix version on YouTube!)
“Castles…” is one of Hendrix’s most biographical compositions. Verse 1 describes the turmoil that led to his mother’s and father’s divorce.
Down the street you can hear her scream you’re a disgrace
As she slams the door in his drunken face
And now he stands outside
And all the neighbors start to gossip and drool
He cries oh, girl you must be mad,
What happened to the sweet love you and me had?
Against the door he leans and starts a scene,
And his tears fall and burn the garden green
Verse 2 is about his brother Leon, who was often in and out of foster care and separated from Jimi. The “little Indian” reference comes from his maternal grandmother who was half Cherokee, making Jimi and his siblings part Native American.
A little Indian brave who before he was ten,
Played war games in the woods with his Indian friends
And he built up a dream that when he grew up
He would be a fearless warrior Indian Chief
Many moons passed and more the dream grew strong until
Tomorrow he would sing his first war song and fight his first battle
But something went wrong, surprise attack killed him in his sleep that night
The familial distress of the first two verses is redeemed in the final verse where a suicidal girl in a wheelchair sees a “golden winged ship” and is inspired to have a change of heart and not go through with it.
There was a young girl, who’s heart was a frown
Cause she was crippled for life,
And she couldn’t speak a sound
And she wished and prayed she could stop living,
So she decided to die
She drew her wheelchair to the edge of the shore
And to her legs she smiled you won’t hurt me no more
But then a sight she’d never seen made her jump and say
Look a golden winged ship is passing my way
And it really didn’t have to stop, it just kept on going…
And so castles made of sand slip into the sea, eventually
The imagery of sandcastles slipping into the sea is an apropos metaphor for the fragility and impermanence of the relationships in Hendrix’s youth.
The music by Hendrix and his band – bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell – perfectly support the sentiments expressed in the lyrics.
So was Hendrix more than just a great guitarist? I vote yes!
Enjoy… until next week.