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  • Legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix is revealed in a new documentary by David Kramer. (Photo: Steve Banks)

    For the last 30 years, two-time Emmy Award winner David Kramer has been quietly leading a small team working on unearthing and preserving the unexpurgated story of Jimi Hendrix‘s life and death.

    Kramer has amassed well over 400 on-camera interviews, hours of unseen footage of Hendrix and hundreds of previously-unseen photographs for his documentary, “Jimi Hendrix: The Documentary.”

    David Kramer

    This makes the film unique, because no subject in the history of documentary film making has ever been given this level of first-person detail.

    “There’s so much misinformation out there in movies, documentaries and the internet, it’s as if there’s a deliberate campaign of disinformation to mislead in an attempt to rewrite history” says Kramer.

    “The Hendrix-story has taken on urban myth-like proportions – stories abound that many people believe to be true but largely are not.”

    Kramer’s movie premieres Apr. 6 at the Nyack International Film Festival in Rockland County, NY, April 1-7. The New York Independent sat with Kramer for an exclusive interview:

    NYI: Tell us about your documentary.

    Kramer: My Documentary is a labor of love, and because of that fact, I’ve been able to work on it extensively without a deadline conducting over 400 on camera interviews including 99 percent of the people I wanted to interview. I was able to get most all the people I set out to interview and I have no doubt that this is the definitive documentary on Jimi Hendrix, which is one of the reasons why the Hendrix Estate has been trying to stop it.

    Jimi Hendrix playing at the Gröna Lund in Stockholm, Sweden in June 1967. (Photo: Gröna Lund)

    NYI: What first got you interested in Jimi Hendrix?

    Kramer: I always loved his music and everything he stood for, which in a word is “freedom.” When I first started working in TV as a computer graphics artist, designer, animator and special effects artist it was a brand-new medium/field. Hendrix was always in my thoughts because I felt that if he was alive, he would’ve been producing the most incredible cutting edge music videos with super colorful animation and special effects. As I was creating demo reels for my graphics work, I would always use Hendrix music as the background music for them because just like computer graphics was cutting edge technology, so was Jimi Hendrix’s music; so it seemed like a perfect fit.

    NYI: Tell us a few of the things that you discovered in doing this

    Kramer: First, that virtually everyone loved Jimi Hendrix. In the well over 400 on camera interviews I’ve conducted, not one bad word was spoken about Hendrix. He was revered by musicians, adored by women, idolized and respected by fans and musicians around the world. Some of the controversial things I discovered were that the Mafia was trying to get to him and take over his business.

    His manager was part of British intelligence before he got into the music business and stole all his money. Another thing I discovered was that he was kidnapped by some wannabe mafia thugs in an attempt to take over his contract and run his business. Though the kidnapping has been mentioned in several books and publications, it has only been briefly touched on with few details. I, on the other hand, have covered the kidnapping in depth like no one has before. I did interview one mafia soldier who was actually there along with others who were close to the occurrence.

    NYI: How much of a fan were you before you started doing the research and doc?

    Kramer: I was always a big fan.

    NYI: What surprised you the most in prepping the doc?

    Kramer: The greed and greedy people that surrounded Hendrix in his life and the greed that still continues in his death.

    NYI: What have you encountered with the Hendrix-estate?

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Live In Maui, 1970)

    Kramer: Total resistance! They’ve slandered me, threatened me, blackballed me… They don’t want the real story coming out. I shouldn’t even say “they” because it’s really the person in charge of the Estate who goes by the name of Janie Hendrix (Jimi’s step sister), related only through marriage and of no blood relations. She wants the world to believe that she’s Jimi’s sister. Jimi’s real brother, Leon, has been sued many times by her, and he’s been cut out of the will (which was altered sometime before Jimi’s Father died). She claims that Leon is only a half brother, while she isn’t even a half sister, which is pretty nervy!

    NYI: Who are some of the people interviewed?

    Kramer: Musical legends: Les Paul, BB King, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Isley Brothers, Duane Eddy, Sly Stone, members of The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Stephen Stills, Johnny Winter, Buddy Miles, Noel Redding, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, George Clinton, Leslie West, Corky Laing, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, Eric Burdon, and Ghetto Fighters. Girlfriends, managers, attorneys, record executives, Jimi’s father and brother, as well as the people who helped raise him: aunts, relatives, neighbors and friends of the family. Cultural Icons: Timothy Leary, Tommy Chong, Wavy Gravy. The two doctors who tried to save his life and Monika Danneman the so-called girlfriend/fiancée, who was with him when he died.

    NYI: What interview surprised you the most?

    Kramer: It’s hard to say because I interviewed over 400 people. Many interviews surprised me. I suppose it’s a big surprise when you find out that someone is lying because when you interview, say 15 people on one specific incident and 14 of those people’s stories corroborate, all telling basically the same story and then, the one person retelling the same story does not corroborate, it’s a safe bet that they’re not telling the truth…

    NYI: After spending so much time with this, have your feelings changed at all towards Jimi?

    Kramer: Being more sympathetic and just understanding more about how his life was put in danger and how badly he was treated by some of the people on his payroll, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI (files) and various dark forces looking to get a piece of the pie. When there’s a lot of money involved, that’s when the criminal element comes out of the woodwork to see what they get to “take.”

    NYI: The doc is premiering at the Nyack Film Festival next month, then what?

    Kramer: Hopefully I get a deal because it really is the definitive documentary on Hendrix. But we’ll see. It all depends on if I can find someone who’s not afraid of the Big, Bad Estate, somebody who has the balls to take on the project who’s not afraid of being sued because that’s what they do.

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