Explainer: Museums honor guitar legend Jimi Hendrix
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the death of rock 'n' roll icon Jimi Hendrix, the Seattle-born songwriter and musician Rolling Stone Magazine and many others have crowned the greatest guitarist in rock history.
Hendrix died in London on Sept. 18, 1970, in a drug- and alcohol-related tragedy when he was just 27 years old. To mark the anniversary of his death and to honor his memory, museums in London and several cities in the United States are displaying Hendrix-related artifacts and holding special events.
Here are some of the places you can join fans in honoring the rock legend.
Through Nov. 10, London’s Handel House Museum (where George Frideric Handel once lived) is featuring an exhibition celebrating Hendrix’s life and musical legacy.
What’s the connection between Hendrix and the famed Baroque composer? The Handel House Museum has its administrative offices in the London apartment where Hendrix lived from 1968 until his death in 1970. Tickets are sold out for tours of the former apartment, but next door the museum is displaying a wide range of Hendrix-related artifacts, many on loan from museums and collectors around the world.
The exhibit includes the custom Gibson guitar Hendrix played at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970, handwritten song lyrics for "Stepping Stone" and "Love or Confusion," his British work permit and the black Westerner hat and Dandie Fashion-designed orange velvet jacket with floral print Hendrix made famous on stage and in filmed footage. The Handel House Museum is also sponsoring Hendrix-themed walking tours, concerts and panel discussions.
The infamous fuzz and feedback-filled version of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" that Hendrix played during his set at the 1969 Woodstock Festival is considered one of the greatest guitar performances ever. Hendrix images, audio and video clips are featured year-round at the Woodstock-focused Museum of Bethel Woods in Bethel, N.Y. But on Sept. 18, museum spokesperson Shannon McSweeney-LeMay says Hendrix will be honored with “a simple wreath at the monument that marks the original Woodstock festival field” so that guests have a place to honor his memory.
Hendrix claimed black, Mexican and a bit of Cherokee heritage, so he’s included in an exhibition running through Jan. 2, 2011, at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Hendrix-related artifacts included in "Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture" range from a leather necklace and a leather pouch to a colorful, full-length, patchwork leather coat on display for the first time.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
In Cleveland, Ohio, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (which inducted the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1992) has a permanent Hendrix exhibit featuring more than 50 artifacts.
On display are guitars, concert posters, photographs, handbills, drawings and a couch from Hendrix’s childhood home.
Among the articles of Hendrix’s clothing on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the outfit he wore at the Love and Peace Festival in Germany for what turned out to be his final concert performance on Sept. 6, 1970.
In Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle, the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum (EMP) also has a permanent Hendrix gallery. Items from the museum’s extensive Hendrix collection are cycled in and out, but right now visitors can see the white Fender Stratocaster Hendrix played at Woodstock, guitar shards from the Monterey Pop Festival and the Saville Theater, Hendrix’s diary, his address book and other artifacts.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Hendrix’s death, the EMP is also displaying the handwritten lyrics for "Black Gold" (one of the songs the musician was working on before he died), black and white photos from his funeral, including a shot of Miles Davis, and several other items. Jasen Emmons, EMP’s director of curatorial affairs says that on Sept. 18, the museum will display this last set of artifacts in the museums' Sky Church performance hall. “We’ll also play performance footage of Jimi on the Sky Church screen; much like we did when Michael Jackson died.”
Final resting place
And as they do year-round, on the 40th anniversary of the Hendrix’s death, you can be sure many fans will make a special visit to Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Wash. There, a tasteful but hard-to-miss memorial marks Jimi Hendrix’s gravesite.
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