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Director Interview with Bob Smeaton

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Bob Smeaton, director of Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’, talks about the making of the documentary film.

The discovery of the previously unseen footage of Jimi Hendrix’ Miami Pop Festival performance in 1968 was so “mind-blowingly good” according to Smeaton, that he originally planned to create a film based on that appearance alone. Not only is it so rare to see new footage of Jimi Hendrix at the peak of his career, says Smeaton, but the sound quality of the Miami Pop performance was great because Hendrix’s sound engineer Eddie Kramer was there to make it a multitrack recording.

While the the Miami Pop Festival footage remains a highlight of the American Masters film, Hendrix’s entire life is covered in the documentary. An important facet is revealing the man behind the rock star image. Interviews with intimates who knew Jimi before his blazing career took off describe a quiet, shy man dedicated to music-making. In just a short time span, the hard-working guitarist gained international fame.

“It’s a great story, you couldn’t make it up,” says Smeaton.

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ is Smeaton’s third Jimi Hendrix film. In 1998 he received his second Grammy for his Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsies documentary. In 2010, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix, he directed Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child, a feature-length documentary on the life of Jimi Hendrix.

Bob Smeaton was also series director and writer on the Grammy Award-winning Beatles Anthology TV series, which aired in the UK and the USA in 1996. He gained his first feature film credit as director on the feature documentary Festival Express (2004). He subsequently went on to direct documentaries on many of the biggest music acts in the world, including Elton John, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Queen, Nirvana, and the Spice Girls. In 2009 he directed the highly acclaimed Emmy-nominated Beatles on Record. In 2011 he directed Mark Knopfler: A Life in Songs, an intimate portrait of the former leader of Dire Straits.

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ premiered nationally Tuesday, November 5, 2013, on PBS.

Director’s Top 10 Hendrix Songs

Bob Smeaton has spent decades listening to Jimi Hendrix songs, especially while making three films about the legendary guitarist. You’ll have to sign up for a Spotify account to listen this Top 10 list, but, you’re in luck: it’s a free service.


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