Jimi Hendrix biopic won’t feature any of his music

Will Perkins
Wide Screen

Can you imagine what the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line" would have been like without tunes by the Man in Black? Or what kind of movie "Ray" would have been without music by R&B great Ray Charles? How can you make a film about a famed musician if you're not able to use any of his songs in the movie?

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That's exactly the problem faced by the Jimi Hendrix biopic "All Is by My Side," starring Outkast's Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000) as the legendary guitarist. Experience Hendrix LLC, the company that owns the rights to the late rocker's catalogue and is run by Hendrix's sister Janie, released a statement last month regarding "All Is by My Side." The statement made clear that "no such film, were it to include original music or copyrights created by Jimi Hendrix, can be undertaken without its full participation."

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The John Ridley film was unable to secure the cooperation of the Hendrix estate, and will therefore be unable to use any songs from Hendrix's fantastic repertoire. It's a Jimi Hendrix biopic without great tracks such as "Purple Haze" and "Little Wing," "If 6 Was 9" and "Foxy Lady." Why bother making a movie about arguably the world's most famous guitarist when you can't use any of his greatest hits?

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The producers have found a clever way of getting around that major obstacle, however. According to Rolling Stone, the film will instead feature songs by other artists that Hendrix performed with during his career. Songs such as the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and other famous rock standards including "Wild Thing," "Hound Dog," and "Bleeding Heart." All great songs, but they weren't Hendrix originals. Without that distinctive Hendrix sound, "All Is by My Side," is sure to be lacking somehow.

Other musical biopics have taken a similar route in the past when they were unable to secure the cooperation of the artists or their estates. "Backbeat," a film about the early Beatles in Hamburg, Germany, was able to use only music by other artists (such as Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally") that the band played as part of its shows. The only real Beatles song used in the film was the Tony Sheridan recording of "My Bonnie," which the band provided backup vocals for. The noticeable absence of Beatles material hurt the film, and "All Is by My Side" will likely suffer as well if it can't secure any Hendrix originals.

"All Is by My Side" is due in theatres next year.