You could be excused for thinking that Jimi Hendrix is still alive.
There he was in the pages of all the music magazines promoting his ‘new’ album ‘People, Hell & Angels”. This is the tenth posthumous studio album to be released under his name, which is especially staggering since he only released three studio albums (as The Jimi Hendrix Experience) when he was alive.
Should a dead musician still be releasing music?
It’s an interesting question. There are many examples of posthumous albums and many arguments for and against them. Freddie Mercury went into the studio most days before his death to record anything he could so that Queen could put out another album. The band Ministry recently suffered the death of their guitarist Mike Scaccia and announced that the album they were currently working on would be their last, with lead singer Al Jourgensen saying “I can’t do it without Mikey and I don’t want to.”
Personally I feel any posthumous album should have already been completed (minus the mixing and final production) and needs to be released as the artist intended it to be (I shall save the ‘iPod destroying albums’ debate to another time). The fourth album to be released after his death is called ‘Loose Ends’ and is a collection of jams and other material (except for one actual song) that wasn’t ever considered to be a complete work. Reprise Records noted this and refused to release it in the US and Canada and I can understand why.
To artists, their own music is a very personal thing. As a child you wouldn’t show anyone your drawing until you were perfectly happy with it and you thought it was the very best it could be. A rough, unfinished jam would very rarely be released for that exact reason. Jamming is one of the main creative processes that goes into making a song and is used as a foundation to build upon. From this recording you pick and choose different parts and amalgamate and edit them into a workable idea, or just completely scrap the lot. I certainly wouldn’t want any of my rough ideas released (especially considering that they’re nowhere near the genius of Hendrix).
It’s not hard to see why ten albums have been released after his death though. Hendrix fans are adoring and devoted, and there are big profits to be made by the music industry from classic artists. He also has an extensive collection of unreleased material that for any artist would be a very successful body of work. He is an icon and there is still a giant Jimi-sized hole left in the music scene.
However, I also think that there comes a point when you have to say “enough is enough”. Let Hendrix’s legacy live on through Woodstock, Monterey International Pop Festival (where he famously burnt his guitar) and Voodoo Chile, to name a few. If his posthumous collection continues to grow and dwarf his output whilst alive, I fear that people will forget who the real Jimi is.