Jack Johnson Pays Homage to Jimi Hendrix
By: George Varga
Jack Johnson and Jimi Hendrix?
What could the acoustic-guitar-strumming Johnson, one of the most mellow-sounding troubadours around, have in common with Hendrix, who revolutionized electric guitar playing in the 1960s and was just 27 when he died in 1970?
A lot more than you might think.
Johnson’s bluesy six-string work on the title track of his newest CD, “To the Sea,” has a distinct Hendrix flavor. So do the slinky chords he plays on another new song, “Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology,” whose stop-go accents evoke “The Wind Cries Mary,” Hendrix’s classic 1967 ballad.
“It’s cool you would notice that stuff,” Johnson said. “I’ve held back on saying this, but Hendrix has had more influence on me than anybody, and I don’t think it shows too much on my other albums.”
Johnson, 35, knows some fans will be surprised, noting: “Most people think of amazing guitar solos when they think of Hendrix, and I don’t take many.”
Indeed, this laid-back Hawaiian native specializes in tropical beach music that’s often so relaxed that it inspired a choice parody — named, fittingly, “The Mellow Show” — by Andy Samberg on TV’s “Saturday Night Live.” (He and Samberg come to mock blows in the video for Johnson’s song “At Or With Me.”) But hearing Hendrix’s epic 1968 double album, “Electric Ladyland,” when he was 15 made a lasting impression on Johnson, a former teenage surfing star.
“It wasn’t just his guitar playing, but his songwriting and chord progressions,” Johnson said from his home in Hawaii.
“Especially with ‘1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be),’ just being a kid and hearing this song about taking off to this underwater world, and then he shapes this underwater landscape for 13 minutes. … That entire album has had a big influence on me and been the soundtrack of my life.”
Johnson has an extensive collection of Hendrix bootlegs, even the “horrible” ones. “Even though I say he’s influenced me more than anyone else, I’ve never tried to recreate what he does or come close to it,” he said. “The acoustic guitar was the main thing I played on my first few albums. This new one is the first where I’ve gone for some of the tones he got and used wah-wah and octave pedals.”
Does this mean Johnson, who will receive a national humanitarian award in December for his environmental work, might throw in a version of Hendrix’s mighty “Purple Haze” at his concerts?
“You never know!” Johnson said, laughing. “You never know.”
To find out more about George Varga and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM