Monday, May 29, 2017

Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner


I saw a web feature recently where novelists talked about what fiction they were reading during these disturbing early days of the Trump era, days in which the institutions of democracy are under steady siege. Most had some sort of politically over-toned book they were engaging with. I have found that for myself, I haven't been looking for political art at all. I get my political analysis through in depth essays online, while I look to art as an antidote to politics, as a pursuit in which I can keep my heart and mind and soul properly functioning. I do enjoy good political art when I come across it though, and for my money, the best piece of political art ever is Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969. Far from disrespectful, it was just a clear reflection of what was really happening in the US and in the world, and as Jimi says in the brief clip with Dick Cavett at the end, the performance has its own beauty. And it's fitting, in a sad way, for Memorial Day.

UPDATE: 5-31-17
Maybe this succeeds as political art because it's not really political. Is Hendrix saying that war is bad? Not necessarily. But he is saying that the United States should surrender its fantasy of purity.

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