The story “Because My Father Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock” opens with Victor, the story narrator, recalling his father’s past life, how he was thrown to prison for assaulting a Private member of National Guards during a peaceful demonstration. Victor is quick to note that even though the prison conditions were terrible, and prisoners were killed each day, his father never faced any grave confrontation from other prisoners until his release. It was after his release that Victor’s father went to Woodstock, where he saw Jimi Hendrix play “The Star-Spangled banner.”
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Twenty years on, after watching the Jimi Hendrix performance, Victor is quick to note that his father played his personal tape of Jimi Hendrix live song continuously over and over. Victor formed a ritual with his father associated with the playing of Jimi Hendrix tape. Whenever Victor heard his father from a distance coming late in the night from his drinking, he would start playing the tape. The music would act as a lullaby as Victor’s father would dose off immediately at the kitchen table as victor fell asleep at his feet. So bad was his father’s drinking habit that it led to the deterioration of his relationship with his wife.
Victor’s parents had a violent relationship, as Victor points out. The relationship was based on love-making and a lot of drinking. Better still, Victor’s narration makes the reader believe that most of the violence stemmed from an argument on Jimi Hendrix. Victor points out an incident that occurred when the family was having a trip to Seattle at the graveside of Jimi Hendrix. As he comments on the nature of Hendrix’s death, Victor’s father says, “Only the good die young,” but in a quick rejoinder, his mother says, “No, only the crazy people choke to death on their own vomit.” Victor comments, “I was used to these battles.” This helps to show that Victor was used to this kind of argument between his parents.
With continued drinking, Victor’s father started disappearing from home frequently. This raised concern to Victor’s mother, who at one time tried to explain this behavior to his son. She said, “Your father just likes being alone more than he like being with other people. Even me and you.” Victor disagrees with his mother on this account. He notes that his father always wanted to be with Jimi Hendrix. As for drinking friends, they used to spend long hours drinking, laughing, and listening as Jimi Hendrix “The Spangled Banner” played on the stereo.
This is what gave way to his father traveling more and away with his companion Jimi Hendrix, going away for days on a motorcycle. This behavior of drinking and getting away culminated in Victor’s parents’ divorce. His mother became fed up with the drunkenness, the constant argument, and disappearances.
Prior to the divorce, Victor’s father had a fatal accident, but despite the injustices done to Victor’s mother, she was by her side to nurse his wounds, always by his side singing him Indian tunes. On their final separation, Victor seeks to know the main reason for the divorce from his mother. He asked, “Was it because of Jimi Hendrix?” To which her mother replied, “Part of it, yeah, this might be the only marriage broken up by a dead guitar player” This shows how deeply Victor’s family was entangled to Jimi Hendrix. It was a source of happiness and misery as all sorts of comings were blamed on him.
On a closer examination, much blame lays on Victor’s father for the manner in which he responded to Jimi Hendrix’s performance. It is important to note that Victor’s father was an American living like an outcast, going through all sorts of injustices and prejudice. Jimi Hendrix’s playing of the National Anthem was a call to rise against injustices, a call to live a richer, meaningful life. But instead of Victor’s father embracing the call to rise above all the historical injustices, Jimi Hendrix music messed up his ability to live a good life. He created a world of his own, ignoring reality completely, as he tells his son, “I ain’t interested in what’s real. I’m interested in how things should be”
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Victor’s father finally abandoned his son, Jimi Hendrix, and other blues music became a source of comfort for Victor, especially when he missed his father. Victor says on the music, “On those nights I missed him most, I listened to music, not always Jim Hendrix. Usually, I listened to blues….”
Victor did not only adapt his father’s music but diversified his to listening to another kind of blues music. Instead of being enslaved by Jimi Hendrix music, he drew inspiration from it. Whenever he listened to Jimi Hendrix, he always saw a ray of hope that one day his father will return, that everything will turn out to be good.