Starting at Zero: His Own Story — Jimi Hendrix, Edited by Alan Douglas, Peter Neal

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“What pervades every page [is] a man thoroughly alive.”

— Mojo

“A confiding, funny, and wrenching memoir of a life lived on the edge and passionately devoted to music and freedom. Here is Hendrix unmediated . . . [Illuminates] the stories behind his songs and now-legendary performances, and the surreal highs and lows of touring and stardom.”

— Booklist

“The virtue of this book is its revelation of the restless, curious, creative, self-contradictory mind of a musical genius as he grappled with fame, fellow musicians, inspiration, doubt and life under the competing spotlights of adulation and criticism. A must read..” 


It took just four years in the spotlight for Jimi Hendrix to become an international cultural icon. The sheer impact and originality of his music and his unique mastery of the guitar placed him forever amongst musical giants. But what of the man behind the public image?

Modest and intensely private by nature, Jimi was shrouded in intrigue from the moment he first came into the public eye, and the mystery has only grown with time.  

Much has been written about him by experts, fans, and critics, some of it true and some of it not. He did, however, leave his own account of himself, locked away like a Chinese puzzle in his many interviews, lyrics, writings, poems, diaries, and even stage raps. 

Starting at Zero: His Own Story brings all these elements together in narrative form. The result is an intimate, funny, and poetic memoir-one that tells, for the first time, Jimi's own story as only he could tell it. 

The lyricism and rhythm of Jimi Hendrix’s writing will be of no surprise to his fans. Hendrix wrote prolifically throughout his life and he left behind a trove of scribbled-on hotel stationary, napkins, and cigarette cartons. Starting at Zero weaves the scraps and bits together fluidly with interviews and lyrics.

Here for the first time we see a continuous narrative of the artist’s life, from birth through to the final four years of his life, and the result is a beautifully poetic memoir as smooth as Hendrix’s finest songs.

The pieces of Starting at Zero came together in large part because of the inspiration of Alan Douglas. Douglas first met Jimi Hendrix backstage at Woodstock, and soon after became Hendrix’s producer and close friend. In creating the book he joined forces with documentary filmmaker Peter Neal, who edited Hendrix’s writing with the reverence and light touch it deserved.

The basic outlines of the artist's life come through: He was born in Seattle in 1942 of African-American and Cherokee heritage. His mother died when he was 10. Shy and eccentric even as a child, Hendrix's difference and rebellious nature made for an awkward fit in school, and he dropped out at 16.

After a brush with the law, he joined the U.S. 101st Airborne but was discharged early owing to an accident, the effects of which he played up, he claimed, since he'd had enough of the Army. His self-education in the blues as a guitarist in bands in the South and New York City led to a steady gig with Little Richard, but the flamboyant bandleader chafed at Hendrix's style, which threatened to outshine him on the stage.

Never interested in stark borders or hard definitions, while living in Harlem, Hendrix was attracted to the folk scene in Greenwich Village, particularly to an off-key singing poet named Bob Dylan. With two dimes in his pocket, he accepted an invitation to try his luck in the blues and rock cauldron of London.

The virtue of Staring at Zero is its revelation of the restless, curious, creative, self-contradictory mind of a musical genius as he grappled with fame, fellow musicians, inspiration, doubt and life under the competing spotlights of adulation and criticism.

It is a short book about a short life that ended long before its author, who died at age 27, had a chance to reflect on events with the benefit of hindsight. As a result, the reading experience feels intimate and immediate, written and spoken by a thoughtful and articulate artist.

We see his thoughts during times of feast, famine, and fame—frozen at the original moment, and becoming palpably more abstract and ethereal as drug use took a larger and larger role in his life.

Starting at Zero: His Own Story is an essential primary source for any devoted Hendrix fan, but it also will appeal to those starting a deep dive into this icon.

The PERFECT pairing with Starting at Zero is the incredible photography book, The Experience: Jimi Hendrix at Mason's Yard


  • Condition: New. Hardback. Two-tone images throughout
  • Edition: First Edition - Published November 2013
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • ISBN-13:  978-162-040-331-0
  • Pages: 256
  • Dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)
  • Rating:★★★★1/2 (See FAQs)
  • Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) was one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.

    Alan Douglas is a record producer who produced many of Hendrix's posthumous releases. He was a friend and adviser to the musician during his lifetime.

    Peter Neal is a documentary film director, whose credits include the 1968 Hendrix short documentary Experience.