(Please Note: The essay below was written in mid-May of 2013, the last time the page itself got a major update. It's preserved here--at least for now--for historic purposes, but you may also wish to visit the new Memorial Gardens section of the Wing, where you can read both my personal tribute, written a month or so after Jimi's untimely death on September 1, 2014, as well as several more recent other writings.)
Warning: Oodles of gushing ahead. (I mean, even more than is usual for me. ) It's kind of ironic, actually--of all the artists mentioned on this site, Jimi is very much a newcomer, as I've only been following him and his music in what I'd call a "serious" manner since about 2004. But, as you might be able to infer from the fact that he's the only member of the Hall of Hunks to have an entire wing all to himself, when I did get serious, I didn't do it halfway--and I like to think I make up in enthusiasm at least some of what I lack in longevity!
In truth, I did admire Jimi as a singer for a long time before I ever knew what he looked like--or, indeed, even what his name was. I'm a bit young to have been into 80's music actually during the 80's, and Survivor was another of those bands where I'd known and liked their big hits for years, but for most of that time, I didn't know anything about them beyond that handful of songs. Up until 2003 or so, I'd never even seen a photo of them, much less a music video--so thank goodness for VH-1 Classic, or I'd probably still be languishing in ignorance! They played the clips for "High On You" and "The Search Is Over" while I happened to be watching, and my interest in the dark and handsome fellow behind that distinctive voice subsequently took a sharp upward turn.
And it's an interest which has not only endured since then, but increased--one might even say it's turned into a bit of an obsession. (I'm harmless, though, honest. ) I'm pretty sure I've got copies of just about every album that Jimi's ever done lead vocals on by now, though in some cases those copies are on vinyl and I thus haven't done much actual listening to them. My exposure to the stuff he did with Target, for example, has been limited to the few things he had available as downloads from his Snocap store while that was still active, and although his earliest work is generally less in line with my personal tastes (Target's a little more bluesy than I tend to prefer, and I'm so used to the kinds of things he sang with Survivor that it was rather surreal to hear him doing progressive rock on that Combinations album from back in 1973 ) everything else is some of the most-listened-to music in my entire collection. Naturally, I'm a huge fan of all the albums he did with Survivor (with perhaps the qualified exception of Reach) but First Strike by Cobra is pretty darn awesome, too, and while I admit I didn't care that much for his latest solo CD, which was released in November of 2012, pretty much all his other solo projects have been terrific. (For detailed information on his catalog, including some personal album reviews and links to sites where you can buy your own copies both on disc and as MP3s, check out my updated CD Buying Page and Digital Music Page.)
I'm still not particularly happy about Jimi having returned to Survivor in November of 2011; I've been to a couple of their shows now, and while they certainly weren't horrible or anything, I do miss hearing some of the songs that Jimi used to do quite regularly at solo gigs, and I'm really pretty indifferent to all the older material that's become a regular part of their setlist. Oh well--Jimi still seems to do a handful of concerts on his own each year, often with Headliner or the Voices of Rock Radio, and he's said explicitly in at least one interview that he fully intends to keep on doing his own projects alongside Survivor as a band, so I suppose I'll have to content myself with that. (I still maintain that they need him a great deal more than he needs them, though.)
If you're a regular visitor to C&S or you've already done some browsing around the rest of this part of the site, however, then you've probably realized that my appreciation of Jimi is, shall we say, rather less than purely artistic. I would hope it's apparent to most folks who visit my site that I really do have a ton of respect for him as a person and a musician, I just don't make a secret of the fact that I happen to think he's a grade-A hunk, either. And, all kidding aside, if I didn't dig the music first and foremost--if it didn't speak to my heart and set my spirit soaring the way it does--then none of the rest of it would matter so much as an ounce. Good-looking guys are pretty much a dime a dozen, after all, but someone like Jimi, who's got talent enough for three people and is the world's biggest sweetheart on top of it... well, that's what really makes him something special in my eyes. This is not to say that he isn't an attractive man, however--he is, and quite thoroughly so. There's the abundance of dark good looks, for one thing (the eyes! the smile! those cheekbones! ) and the fact that he's built like a brick wall, for another. He's got some of the broadest shoulders I've ever seen on a rock star, not to mention chest muscles that are absolutely to die for, and an ability to fill out a pair of jeans in all the right places, coming and going. (And speaking of which, ladies, that's another reason to pick up a copy of his solo album Crossroads Moment if you haven't already--the pictures of him in the liner notes are absolutely superb. )
No discussion of Jimi's best features would be complete, however, without a mention of his voice. There's been talk in certain quarters for a while about him losing (or having already lost) most of his edge as a singer, but if you ask me, that's talk of the cheapest kind. I think he sounds just fine on the various new studio recordings that have come out of late, and all the shows I've been to in the past few years were absolutely amazing--even the one in Oneida, WI when he was sick with bronchitis! I'll admit he's a bit less brassy and a little more breathy these days than he used to be, but I for one don't mind that at all (I rather like the breathy thing, actually ) and considering that it's approaching thirty years since Vital Signs came out, I very much doubt that ANY singer could have gone without experiencing some change in all that time. So Jimi may indeed be aging (aren't we all?) but I'd have to say that he's doing it pretty damn gracefully as professional vocalists go. Or the years haven't noticeably lessened his capacity for reducing me to a little puddle of protoplasmic ooze at a moment's notice, anyway; scroll down and read my comments on "Give Me The Word," "Bittersweet," "Touch You There," and "Long Time" in the Favorite Songs section and you'll see what I mean. As much as I love his singing, though--and I never, ever, get tired of that--I have to admit that I could listen to him talk for hours on end, too, and I wouldn't even care what about. He has a really, really nice speaking voice (not to mention what's just about the cutest laugh you ever wanted to hear) and that Tennessee drawl is totally the icing on the cake. (Hey, I've spent my whole life in the western US; to me, Southerners DO have an accent, and in this particular case, quite a charming one! )
All things considered, I think I got to the "hopeless case" stage with regards to Jimi a long time ago--and if I hadn't before, I definitely went over the edge for good and all the night I first had the pleasure of meeting him face-to-face. (You knew I couldn't get through this essay without mentioning that, right? ) You can read in detail about when, where, and how the whole thing took place on this page, so I won't cover it all again here, but man... wow. Just--wow. What an experience that was; even now, so much time later, I still can't look back on it without a huge grin and a happy sigh. Jimi really is just the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet, and so good to all us crazy fans--I can't sing his praises enough, if you'll excuse the pun. (And my word--as hunky as he looks in photos and on video, and as wonderful as he sounds on studio recordings and audio interviews, none of it even begins to do justice to what he's like in the flesh. In my humble opinion, just about everything is better at close range, and you would not believe the amount of sheer presence he has. It wasn't quite a case of where everybody stopped talking when he walked into the hotel lobby that night, but I'd still swear the air changed! )
For all of that, though, he really is very down-to-earth and not at all standoffish or remote, not to mention hilarious--though I'll admit that some of the stuff about that night has become considerably funnier in hindsight than it was at the time! Case in point: Chris and Barry were curious about the poster I'd brought to get autographed (a promotional one for When Love Comes Down--you can view a scan of it here if you're so minded) so I obligingly unrolled it and let them have a look. Now, I probably should have known something was afoot when Jimi arrived and both of them immediately acquired these big grins and started urging him to see just what it was I had for him to sign, but when I again unrolled the poster and showed it to him, I confess I had a bit of a "deer in the headlights" moment when his reaction was to laugh and exclaim, "That guy's gay!" Now, keep in mind that this was about two minutes after I'd practically felt him come into the room, and only one after he'd shook my hand; my wits were definitely not operating at full speed. Heck, I was still trying just to comprehend the fact that the whole thing was actually happening--but there was still no way in heaven or earth that I was going to agree with a statement like that, and disagreeing would have taken the conversation in a direction that I was NOT prepared to deal with, face-to-face. So I kind of ended up just cringing and not really making much of a response, but what I SHOULD have said was, "Jimi, sweetie, lemme explain something to you: You in a black leather jacket, AND when you were still wearing your hair long, is about as far from 'gay' as you can get!" (Oh, and for the surprisingly large number of folks who've ended up at this page by doing internet searches in regard to the details of Jimi's orientation, trust me, he is as absolutely as straight as they come!)
I wouldn't have made any bets with you, back in 2005, about that initial meeting being anything other than a one-shot deal, but scarcely a show has gone by since then when I haven't exchanged at least a few moments' conversation with him afterward, and I don't even have the words to express how happy that's made me. I wouldn't presume to call myself a friend, of course--a couple of minutes once or twice a summer, even for as long as I've been going to shows now, hardly qualifies me for that! But after Glyndon in 2010, Red Wing in 2011, and particularly Hoffman Estates in July of 2012 (um, pardon me for a moment whilst I remember THAT night... SIGH) I do think I might have finally graduated from a mere admirer up to a nodding acquaintance, at least. (And he really is just the sweetest thing to remember me so consistently, even though my attendance at shows tends to be anything BUT consistent!) And while I'm starting to have my doubts that I'll ever be his equal as far as snappy comebacks go, a bit more practice certainly wouldn't do my communication skills any harm--and I daresay I'll be continuing to take every chance for it I can possibly get.