As a person who has and might never be a star, understanding stardom may prove to be tenuous, still an attempt can be made and the best way would be to watch or read a biography. Well, that is a thought! I believed and attempted to do the same. The case in the study, as many others would believe, is about the greatest star of them all-Jimi Hendrix. A Room Full of Mirrors is a biography by Charles R Cross, one of the better rock biographers of the day on Jimi. (Gamble, 2001)
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Stardom, we believe, always comes at a price and it is all because the person chose to rise above the ordinary. It’s all about making it big, living the “American Dream”, maybe for monetary reasons or social status or acceptance or having a special place in history, and no man has done it all with as much panache as Jimi. In addition, personally is believed, it is also because some people have sleepless nights thinking that their talents are not being put to their proper use and choose to tread the path less traveled (Nambisan, 2007).
Throughout the book, which has been based on over 300 interviews, one gets to feel that all the above applied to Jimi and more. He was the El Magico, the dreamer, the magician who is a short span of 27 years fought against poverty, racial discrimination and prejudices, a troubled childhood with an abusive father and the loss of his mother, an oscillating life ranging from sheer genius to life in small-time crime and drug abuse and transcended all barriers to reach the apex.
Indeed, he lived the American dream and successful he was, but it also was a struggle for existence. (Cross, 2006) If he did not choose to do what he did, he might have been just another washed-up person. The fact that he lived the life and was highly successful was just fringe benefits. What mattered to him was music and how he could change the world with his guitar. It was about proving a point more to oneself than to others, that he was indeed gifted. I believe that he was just playing his music; the position of an idol was more thrust upon than craved for. He had missed all the finer things in life and basic ones too and when he rose he wanted to catch up with the things he missed, be it love or money and he splurged and did everything, be it love or drugs, to excess. Self-preservation it seems is for lesser mortals. (Lee, 2002)
Cross mentions in his book that though he had it all there was a lack of fulfilment in his life and finally Jimi found solace in God. He mentions how Jimi wrote “Jesus Saves” beneath the title of the draft of Purple Haze. How he “kept [the Bible] open in his house, and he was reading it closely, probably for the first time in his life,” (Cross, 2006) just months away from his death. Ironic though because common perception is that stardom is more about living big, with style and endless supply of anything. So how can a man still are discontented?
Once I was done reading the book I argued, in my mind, with something I had read before, Vis-à-vis to Richard Dyer’s statement, he said and I quote “the general image of stardom can be seen as a version of the American Dream, organized around the themes of consumption, success and ordinariness”. (Cross, 2006) I felt that it was actually a general perception, our perception of stardom. Nevertheless, what we fail to realize is that we never had the same circumstances in our lives so what we might be considering glossy could actually have been taxing on the star. Is it all a façade? Cross argues, Hendrix’s death could have been accidental; that in an effort to catch up with some sleep he might have consumed more number of sleeping pills than was required. The conception of excess lingers here too but it also opens up another assortment of problems. The issue of desperation. Is a star pushed to his desperation by his craving to hold onto the limelight or maybe over enthusiastic idol worshippers who spare no space to the star to be in touch with his ground realities? I think it is a mix of both. the consumption part is fuelled by the success but there is also an urge to hang onto one’s ordinariness which sadly is an uphill task because one has to be marketable and to do that he/she has to hang on to this general perception of the fans. I mean would the Rolling Stones have been as marketable as, say, decent guys as opposed their image of being wild Childs. This is a paradox worth arguing in times to come (Kwansah-Aidoo, 2005).
- Cross, Charles R; 2006; Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix; Hyperion Books,
- Gamble, Nikki & Nick Easingwood; 2001; ICT and Literacy: Information and Communications Technology, Media, Reading and Writing; Continuum,
- Kwansah-Aidoo, Kwamena; 2005; Topical Issues in Communications and Media Research; Nova Publishers
- Lee, Mordecai; 2002; Intersectoral differences in public affairs: the duty of public reporting in public administration; Journal of Public Affairs; 2, 2, 33-43; Henry Stewart Publications; Department of Governmental Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Nambisan, Satish & Robert A. Baron; 2007; Interactions in virtual customer environments: Implications for product support and customer relationship management; Journal of Interactive Marketing; 21, 2, 42-62; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY