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Jimi Hendrix | His working lyrics for "Straight Ahead"

Lot Closed

April 18, 02:45 PM GMT


70,000 - 100,000 USD

Lot Details


Jimi Hendrix

Working autograph manuscript lyrics for “Straight Ahead,” from Hendrix posthumously released The Cry of Love

3 pages (123 x 150 mm). Written recto only in blue and black ballpoint; minor staining and offsetting, evidence water damage, not affecting text.

The Cry of Love was released on 5 March 1971, six months after Hendrix’s death. As Charles Shaar Murray notes, the album demonstrates Hendrix’s “decreasing interest in hard-rock songs, his undiminished flair for elegiac soul ballads and his still-growing fascination with studio textures and instrumental music” (Murray, Crosstown Traffic, 219).

In the months leading up to his death—while navigating the immense and continued success of Electric Lady—Hendrix was faced with answering bigger questions about his music, and about the state of rock music more generally. In ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, David Henderson, while chronicling Hendrix’s last days, relates an interview that took place between Jimi and Keith Altham on 11 September 1970. In fact, this would prove to be Hendrix’s last interview. It seemed Altham—a journalist and friend of Jimi’s who interviewed him a total of eight time—had been eager for Hendrix to “make a statement about the future of ‘music, popular music’ changing the world or ‘as a reflection of the world.’ Jimi replied, ‘But like if they, see, then, well their reflection of the world is like blues.’ He added, ‘That’s where that part of the music is at.’ But there was another kind of music coming around, ‘not sunshine music’ but more of ‘an easier type of thing, with less words and more meaning to it’” (Henderson 400). Indeed, Jimi had come to believe that Flower Power was a thing of the past, and that “you don’t have to be singing about love all the time, to give love to the people” (Henderson 400). The lyrics of “Straight Ahead” typify this shift, and are here presented in their embryonic form:

1. Have you heard—

about what’s happening

all around—

Haven’t you heard

What we’ve been spreading around Town

Aint talking bout black and white

I’m talking ‘bout the world

all around –

– Solo – Good God.   

Evolved into:

Have you heard baby

With the wind blown round

Have you heard baby

A whole lot a people comin' right on down


These earlier lyrics are certainly more racially charged, and convey an almost fraught element that is absent from the finished track. While the bones of the song are evident, it is clear that Hendrix must have gone through a significant revision process between penning these lines and participating in Keith Altham’s interview. In the same interview, Altham asked: “Do you have any politics in fact yourself?” And Jimi replied:

Not really. I was getting ready to get into all that, but like everybody goes through that stage, too. I just… it all comes out in the music most of the time. We have this one song called “Straight Ahead.” And it just says, like, power to the people, freedom to the soul. Pass it on to the young and old. We don’t give a damn if your hair is short or long. Communication is coming on strong. And all this kind of stuff, you know… There are too many heavy songs out nowadays. music has been getting too heavy, almost to the state of unbearable. I have this one little saying: when things get too heavy just call me helium–the lightest known gas to man.


Here, Hendrix quotes from “Straight Ahead” in its final form. From this last interview, it is made clear in Jimi’s own words how essential the song was not only to the development of his sound and style, but also to his ideologies. 

A remarkable working draft of one of Hendrix’s most important songs, referenced in his final interview



David Henderson, ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky. Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child. New York: Atria, 2009; Charles Shaar Murray, Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989