“I Don’t Want to Be a Clown Anymore”: Jimi Hendrix as Racialized Freak and Black-Transnational Icon

  • Aaron Lefkovitz


This chapter connects Hendrix to black-transnational vernacular traditions, a legacy of visual-cultural racial stereotypes, the sociology of racialized popular music, and multiple popular music histories. It highlights Hendrix’s place in a legacy of Hollywood racial, gender, and sexual caricatures and ways that, as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, such African-American artists as Hendrix grew more politically aware as their music resonated with self-assertion. This chapter emphasizes Hendrix’s magnetic stage presence and image, assimilating into, while radically resisting mid-twentieth-century US and transnational racial codes and conventions by performing the role of a “circus freak,” exploiting Hendrix’s racialized, gender, and sexual difference, in an assortment of onstage visual spectacles and in his globally-routed image. The most charismatic in-concert performer of his generation, Hendrix’s onstage antics, smashing and burning his guitar, playing the guitar with his teeth, with one hand, behind his back, and between his legs, had overtly sexual implications and continued US and international freak-show legacies.


Freak Culture Bob Dylan Racialized Popular Music Minstrelsy Great Migration 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Lefkovitz
    • 1
  1. 1.The City Colleges of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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