Bootsy Collins Profiles Jimi Hendrix

I’m a big reader of biographies, and also enjoy them on TV, where they’ve become a programming staple. Here are a few recent notable shows recounting significant lives.

Jimi Hendrix — I was glad to see this Biography channel feature on the groundbreaking guitarist soon after watching one of Bio’s docs on Bob Marley that was riddled with poor assessments and commentaries as well as some inaccuracies.

Rather than the usual talking heads commentary by so-called “experts” (who are sometimes dead wrong) and those who knew the subject, this show used only Hendrix’s own words to tell his story, quite appropriately voiced by funk bass playing star Bootsy Collins. Concentrating on what the man said in his letters to family and friends, it gives a genuine sense of the man’s admirable character and musical ambitions while the extensive footage of his performances forcefully makes the point of his artistic significance. Due credit goes to his family-owned Experience Hendrix venture, which has largely done an admirable job of protecting and celebrating his legacy as his popularity remains high more than four decades after his passing.

Einstein – This History International show is not a full life biography of the monumental physicist, but rather concentrates on his development of his theory or relativity and the race by other scientists to prove or debunk it. Yet the show also skillfully interweaves major skeins of his personal and professional life into the story while making his crucial scientific advancement understandable while underscoring its game changing significance.

Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends – As the living embodiment of the glory of popular song crooning, Bennett keeps a grand musical tradition not just alive but continues to prove its potent emotional and artistic impact. He’s also a human of great charm and winning modesty, which this PBS American Masters bio conveys while also spotlighting how the managerial and marketing savvy of his son Danny has kept an artisan of an almost archaic musical style relevant and credible.

Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides — Another American Masters bio that celebrates the winning talent of an actor who has forged a lifelong career of notable work that has only been deepened and enriched by maturity. It shows an admirably rare star who is also bereft of any Hollywood pretensions and attitude, charmingly modest about his accomplishments, and a truly likable person with a delightful streak of eccentricity.

Rob Patterson is an entertainment and political writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@prismnet.com.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2011


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