Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio

Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow

Jimi Hendrix was an iconic force in rock and roll.  His name is synonymous with music.  In the book Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow, author Gary Golio introduces us to the young Jimi.  The book begins in 1956 in Seattle, Washington, where Jimi was living with his father.  They were not wealthy, but Jimi's father recognized that his son had a love for music.  Jimi often practiced on his one-string ukele.  With it he recreated the sounds the raindrops made as they hit the roof and the windowpanes.  Even as a very young boy he interpreted the city sounds that he heard outside the boardinghouse where he lived with his Dad and turned them into melodies.

Jimi and his friends would spend hours talking about the popular musicians of the day.  They listened to Chuck Berry, B. B. King, and Elvis Presley.  These sounds influenced Jimi as did the sounds of a stone hitting the water in a pond when he and his friends would wile away a summer day.  The sounds of bees buzzing and the rustling of leaves had an effect on the music of the young Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi's imagination was on fire.  Not only did he create music but he also painted and drew pictures.  In fact,  an insightful teacher once let him create a chalk mural depicting colorful scenes from Mexico.  With his imagination sparked, Jimi began to wonder if he could "paint" with music.  His ideas were flowing as was his creativity.

As luck would have it, a neighbor was selling a used guitar for five dollars.  Jimi begged his Dad to buy it.  It was a sacrifice for his father to spend that much money but he realized that his son loved music.  Jimi now had an instrument with which to create his art.  He spent hours listening to the radio and to records recreating the sounds.  Jimi saw the music in color.  That was only the beginning for Jimi Hendrix.

This book is a glimpse of a young man's musical beginnings.  The author combines poetic verse with documented facts about the life of Jimi Hendrix.  The illustrations by Javaka Steptoe combine beautifully with the text.  Steptoe is well known for getting into the head of his subject.  In preparation for this book, he went to Seattle to walk where Jimi Hendrix walked as a child.  He even visited his elementary school.  As a result, his illustrations create a poignant and touching portrayal of an artist who was lost too soon. 

This book will not only introduce a new audience to Jimi Hendrix, but it will also offer some new information for those of us familiar with the adult musician.  His childhood had a significant impact on the music of his future.  The author's notes and bibliography provide further information into the life of Jimi Hendrix and his influence on the world of rock and roll.