All Is By My Side – the Jimi Hendrix biopic currently being shot in Ireland, starring Outkast's Andre Benjamin (a.k.a. Andre 3000) – will feature new recordings of Benjamin covering the Beatles, Muddy Waters and more, producers tell Rolling Stone. The film will not, however, include any songs written by Hendrix, the rights to which are controlled by the late guitarist's estate.
Last month, Experience Hendrix LLC, which oversees the Hendrix estate, issued a statement regarding the movie, which has been in production for four months. The company, which is run by Hendrix's sister Janie, said that it "has made it known many times in the past that no such film, were it to include original music or copyrights created by Jimi Hendrix, can be undertaken without its full participation."
Instead, the film – set in London in 1966 and 1967 – will include Benjamin's new versions of covers that Hendrix performed during those years, shortly before the release of his landmark debut, Are You Experienced. Audiences will see Benjamin singing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (which Hendrix famously performed in a London club with members of the Beatles in the audience), "Wild Thing," "Hound Dog," Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" and Elmore James' "Bleeding Heart," plus two songs, "Future Trip" and "Driving South," that Hendrix played as a backup musician for Curtis Knight and the Squires.
The remakes were cut in Los Angeles by a session-legend power trio including Waddy Wachtel (who's played guitar for Keith Richards, Stevie Nicks and Linda Ronstadt), Leland Sklar (bassist for James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Phil Collins), and Kenny Aronoff (former John Mellencamp drummer). Danny Bramson, a longtime music supervisor who won a Grammy for his work on the Almost Famous soundtrack, oversaw the music.
All Is By My Side is currently shooting in Dublin, Ireland, where co-producer Sean McKittrick says it was "easier...to recreate 1967 London." Principal photography is expected to wrap this week, and producers then hope to take the film to Sundance in early 2013 for possible release next year. A soundtrack album featuring the Benjamin-sung covers is also in discussion. "Andre has been Jimi for four months now," McKittrick says. "He speaks and walks like Jimi. He dropped a ton of weight. The transformation has been amazing."
If the movie were to include songs Hendrix wrote, like "Purple Haze" or "The Wind Cries Mary," the producers would have needed permission from Experience Hendrix, which owns the copyrights to the material. But according to McKittrick, the film was always set in Hendrix' pre-fame era, so neither he or his team ever approached the Hendrix estate. "This is the story of Jimi being discovered as a backup musician and how he went to London and became Jimi Hendrix," says the producer. McKittrick says that focusing on early stories about Hendrix – like the times he jammed with Cream and met Eric Clapton – is preferable to a biopic about Hendrix's full life story. "That would be like making a movie about Kurt Cobain," he says. "We all know how that story ends."
A spokesperson for Experience Hendrix tells Rolling Stone that the company had no idea the movie would include non-Hendrix songs. "They want to make a Jimi Hendrix movie without Jimi Hendrix music," says the estate representative. "It would be like making a movie about Lincoln without being able to use the Gettysburg Address."
Music industry sources confirm that the filmmakers are legally in the clear as long as licenses are in place for the non-Hendrix songs. "They're absolutely in the right as long as they got the licenses for those songs," says Conrad Rippy, a music business lawyer who represents the estates of Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley. "They don't need to get the approval of the Hendrix estate for that."