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Seattle music critic Charles Cross seems intent on tackling the lives of his city’s musical titans one by one. Given its subject’s brief and messy existence, Cross’s 2001 Heavier Than Heaven was as close to a definitive biography of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain as we’re likely to see. His latest effort, Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (Hyperion), follows the fortunes of a similarly influential and ill-fated icon, and while Cross’s style will never be confused with that of a virtuoso music historian like Nick Tosches, his prodigious research skills and protean prose do much to reveal the less-explored aspects of Hendrix’s life–most notably his hardscrabble childhood and conflicted relationship with his father. His often overlooked early-60s sojourns are also investigated in full, from his days as an army paratrooper (and his discharge after feigning homosexuality) to his stints backing R & B legends like King Curtis and Little Richard. The story continues well past Hendrix’s meteoric rise and 1970 overdose and into the present-day multimillion-dollar industry that his death spawned. Sadly, and maybe inevitably, Cross finds various members of the Hendrix clan fighting over his estate or the privilege of being buried near his grave. But he expertly focuses his narrative amid this tangled network of family loyalties and hatreds, never losing sight of the enduring product of Hendrix’s life: his music. Tue 9/27, 12:30 PM, Borders, 150 N. State, 312-606-0750. Thu 9/29, 7:30 PM, Barbara’s Bookstore, 1100 Lake, Oak Park, 708-848-9140.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alice Wheeler.