I love this question. And I love the usual answers.
There have been hour-long panels at the science fiction convention I go to that have been devoted to this one question.
And those panels often get extended out into the hallways, into the coffee shop and into the wee hours of the night, fueled by one, or maybe two, alcoholic beverages.
The usual answers.
Here’s the list:
Killing Hitler usually comes out right away. This is often followed by saving the people on the Titanic, making sure that 9/11 never happened, saving JFK, saving Lincoln, warning people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the bombs…all lofty, all well-intentioned and all wonderful.
Saving JFK. Stephen King’s last non-Dark Tower novel dealt with that one. So I am not alone in my fascination with the question.
But I would like to have your answer to that question along with an explanation for your choice.
As you might imagine…I’m about to give you mine.
Going back in time, only one time, with the chance to change one, and only one, historical event…
I would save a life.
I would save a life that I think is so important to the world that I would do whatever it took to keep him alive.
I would go back in time and save the life of Jimi Hendrix.
Jimi Freakin’ Hendrix!!
Jimi never had a #1 record in the US. That doesn’t matter.
Jimi changed the guitar forever. He changed the way people looked at writing songs. He changed how songs are recorded in the studio.
He changed lives. Just ask someone you know who plays the guitar.
Case in point, here is my favorite Hendrix song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QptmMGtzo4
Please take a listen to it. I’ll wait.
Like it? It wasn’t Purple Haze, was it?
Now consider that the song was recorded in 1966/1967. I think that the guitar work is still light years ahead of what any guitarist can come up with. There have been a number of Hendrix wannabes, people who could impersonate the style.
But I don’t hear the deep emotion in their work that I hear in Jimi’s. And his was the original. He imitated no one.
He was able to do all that with 4-track technology and a creative imagination.
And how about the lyrics?
May This Be Love by Jimi Hendrix
Waterfall, nothing can harm me at all,
my worries seem so very small
with my waterfall.
I can see my rainbow calling me
through the misty breeze
of my waterfall.
Some people say daydreaming’s
for the lazy minded fools
with nothing else to do.
So let them laugh, laugh at me,
so just as long as I have you
to see me through,
I have nothing to lose ‘long as I have you.
Waterfall, don’t ever change your ways.
Fall with me for a million days,
Oh, my waterfall.
Beautiful, right? Okay. I think that they’re beautiful.
Most song lyrics do not qualify as poetry. These do, in my MA in Writing opinion.
1966/1967. And we’ve progressed to what?
My overt idolatry of Jimi’s writing and playing is not the only reason I would save his life.
Another reason, and I can’t prove this but in my heart-of-hearts I believe this.
If Jimi had lived, we would never have had to put up with the short-lived disco craze.
I was at Ft Meade when that madness hit and I was writing articles for the USAF newspaper, mainly articles on music.
I had just written a review of a concert by The Kinks and got a reply that The Kinks were the old way and disco would forever replace groups like The Kinks. The guy even worked the phrase “ad nauseum” into his critique of The Kinks, you know, just to prove his intellectual superiority.
A year later, The Kinks released a double live album and the first videotaped concert: ONE FOR THE ROAD. They both sold very well and The Kinks were back on top.
Meanwhile, disco was dying. Then it took its last breath. There are still people who love it, though. Ad nauseum.
Back to my point, I think that Jimi would not have necessarily turned his back on disco, he just would have mutated it into yet another Hendrixian form of music that was better than anyone else’s efforts. The result would have been a new musical genre that would stand the test of time.
And I would have loved to hear what he would have done during The Grunge Attack of the early 90s.
But that’s only a wish. It can never be.
Unless some young science geek decides that there are things that need fixing.
My first piece of advice to that individual is to first read Stephen King’s book, 11/22/63.
If he thinks he can escape the butterfly effect jinx, then my second piece of advice is this: SAVE JIMI!!!