The pastel, psychedelic portrayal of Jimi Hendrix in his military jacket and scarf that graces the latest installment of the United States Postal Service's Music Icons series of Forever stamps has long been in the making. The guitar idol's sister, Janie, tells Rolling Stone magazine the process took about a year on her end, though Susan McGowan, the USPS director of stamp services, says the total time has been nearly three years.
While these latest additions to the Music Icons series – which debuted last year with stamps honouring Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Tejano songstress Lydia Mendoza – seem like no-brainers, McGowan says the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, comprised of everyone from college professors to postal service workers, has spent that time debating which genres and musicians to honour. The committee sought to honour musicians who have made the biggest impact on various genres over the years; no small task considering the USPS offers only 20 new stamps a year. For 2014, the committee wanted to tips its philatelic hat to rock and roll, and with South by Southwest as the deadline for the unveiling, “everything just aligned,” according to McGowan.
For Janie Hendrix, born 18 years after Jimi, it's been worth the wait. Despite deferring to the USPS on her big brother's depiction, she's pleased with the final result. In planning the stamp, she sent the postal service a variety of photos and, considering the Bandleader of Gypsies had a chameleonic knack for changing his look, settling on one era was no easy task. “Jimi was probably the most photographed artist of his time, and he looked so different every year,” she says. “He was in the public eye for only four years, but every year he looked so different – his hair, how he wore his clothes, different hats and scarves. I think the stamp really reflects who he was.”
These ideas of legacy and cultural heritage are what the USPS was aiming for with its Music Icons series. “America has so much in its culture about music and movies and pop culture,” McGowan says.
In the meantime, the USPS is deciding how it wants to commemorate Elvis Presley for a second time. The original 29-cent Elvis issue came out in 1993 and has become the best-selling commemorative stamp of all time. “We're planning on doing something fun with that,” McGowan says. “When the stamp first came out, we asked the American public to vote on the Elvis stamps. We asked people if they liked the younger Elvis or the older Elvis, and it really engaged America in a debate over which Elvis to put on the stamp. We haven't done anything like that in a while, so we're hoping to do something like that.”
As for the future of the Music Icons series, she says 2015 will see a departure from rock and roll, but declined to reveal which genre will be its focus.
Janie Hendrix, however, won't be buying new stamps anytime soon after her next purchase. “I'm going to buy thousands of dollars' worth of these [Jimi Hendrix] stamps, and that's all I'm going to use,” she says.
Source: Rolling Stone