Jimi Hendrix always lived in a bit of a fantasy world – as a kid, he carried around a broomstick he’d pretend to play for over a year, till he saved up enough for a guitar. Growing up in Seattle, Jimi had a hectic family life and often hopped between the homes of family, friends, and neighbors. He found escape in the make-believe – idolizing Flash Gordon of the eponymous ’30s science fiction serial, and insisting on being called “Buster” after its dashing main actor.

After seeing a UFO hovering over his backyard one night, Jimi began writing his own stories, filling notebook after notebook with spaceships, aliens and epic galactic battles – visions that would later inform his spacy songs. Though he eventually outgrew the “Buster” nickname, his love for sci-fi never waned. After working as a paratrooper in the Army and a back-up guitarist for Little Richard, Jimi moved in with fellow sci-fi fan Chas Chandler, bassist of the Animals, who would lend him books from an extensive collection.



It was in London that he began songwriting in earnest, citing sci-fi as an inspiration for the legendary Purple Haze: “I had this thing on my mind about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea. It’s linked to a story I read in a science fiction magazine about a purple death ray. It’s called Purple Haze – excuse me!”

Science fiction: it’s about the only thing I read. I read anything I can on Bob Dylan though.

Moved by the poetic, unapologetic work of Dylan, Jimi bought a Bob Dylan songbook soon after hearing Blonde on Blonde. He couldn’t read music so it must have been the words he treasured – he kept the book with him through all his travels, and it was often the only thing he packed. Perhaps his deepest connection to Dylan lies in their mutual fondness for constructing their own realities: “What I like to do is write a lot of mythical scenes, like the history of the wars on Neptune and the reason Saturn’s rings are there. You can write your own mythology.”

Read on for a list of books that shaped Jimi Hendrix and his sci-fi-inspired music. Complement with The Books Bob Dylan Digs and fellow cosmic king David Bowie’s Top 100 Books.


The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Urantia Book

“An alternative Bible for UFO believers that mixed tales of Jesus with stories of alien visitations. Jimi carried this book with him everywhere – along with his Bob Dylan songbook – and told friends he had learned much from its pages.” –RFOM

The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus by Brian Wilson Aldiss

Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

“I love reading fairy tales, like Hans Christian Andersen, and Winnie-the-Pooh.” -JH

Blonde on Blonde Songbook by Bob Dylan (READ: The Books Bob Dylan Digs)

Night of Light by Philip José Farmer

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (also rec’d by Hayao MiyazakiKim Gordon)

Lot by Ward Moore

Earth Abides by George Stewart

Categories: Musicians

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