As you probably know by now, the Jimi Hendrix estate is not too pleased about the currently filming biopic “All Is By My Side,” which features hip hop star Andre 3000 in the lead role. But there isn’t much they can do about it. As long as the movie doesn’t use any songs by the late, legendary musician — which they would need to get permission for, and which they don’t plan to use anyway — they can pretty much continue as they wish. But the big question thus far is, if they can’t use any Hendrix tunes, just what are they going to use?
Well, Rolling Stone has the answer — cover songs. And it kind of makes sense. Penned by John Ridley (“Three Kings,” “U-Turn“) who will be directing as well, the film will essentially cover Hendrix’s breakthrough period from 1966 to 1967, so basically before he had any big hits on his own. So, we’ll be seeing Andre 3000 deliver versions of The Beatles‘ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (which Hendrix played to the band themselves who were in attendance at the club where he was performing), “Wild Thing” (originally by Jordan Christopher & The Wild Ones but made famous by The Troggs and yes, Hendrix), “Hound Dog” (orginally by Big Mama Thornton, but popularized by Elvis Presley), and tunes by blues icons Muddy Waters (“Mannish Boy”) and Elmore James (“Bleeding Heart”). And in a clever bit of a workaround, audiences will also see Hendrix/Andre 3000 riffing as a backing musician for Curtis Knight and the Squires on the cuts “Future Trip” and “Driving South.” And for some further street cred, music supervisor Danny Bramson (“Almost Famous“) is working on the movie.
So, how do the Hendrix folks feel about all this? “They want to make a Jimi Hendrix movie without Jimi Hendrix music,” a rep for the estate told the magazine. “It would be like making a movie about Lincoln without being able to use the Gettysburg Address.” Meanwhile, producer Sean McKittrick says that focusing on Hendrix before he became a star is better than a movie that would focus on everything after: “That would be like making a movie about Kurt Cobain. We all know how that story ends.” Uh, okay.
A soundtrack album is being tossed around as an idea, but we’d wager it will depend on how much the clearances/licensing cost to make that happen. Production on the movie is expected to wrap this week with a Sundance Film Festival premiere the current goal, and with a 2013 release to follow. We have to admit, we are curious, but can a Hendrix biopic succeed with no Hendrix tunes in it? We’ll see, but the novelty of Andre 3000 as Hendrix playing anything will probably go a long way, and if the story and film are compelling enough, the movie could get away with it.