Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss the skyJimi Hendrix
When we realised that our route back into Seattle at the end of our Washington State road trip would take us through Renton, just to the north of the city, there was one detour we just had to make.
So we took a side road to the Greenwood Memorial Park, to pay our respects to arguably Seattle’s most famous son, Jimi Hendrix. For my younger readers who may not know Hendrix (are there any?!) he was born here in 1942 and is regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of rock. His style of playing and his songs shaped the music of the late sixties, using the electric guitar in ways not previously dreamed of.
The Hendrix Memorial
When he died in London in 1970 his father had his body shipped home and buried here in Renton. Fans started to visit, eventually coming in their thousands; so in 2003 his father bought a larger plot in the memorial park, had Jimi moved here and a memorial erected. Despite its relative grandness the monument is unsignposted; you need to know it’s there, but of course many do and continue to visit.
The monument consists of a statue under a granite dome, with images and quotations from his songs. Fans leave plectrums, drawings, money, cigarettes, alcohol and flowers; and they plant lipstick kisses on the images. The memorial is surrounded by flower beds, appropriately planted with purple flowers.
Angel came down from heaven yesterday
She stayed with me just long enough to rescue meJimi Hendrix
Experience Hendrix, the family company that manages the Hendrix assets, estimates that about 100,000 fans visit each year; although while we were there we saw only a couple of other people. Apparently the company remove and keep the various mementos left at the memorial, in an archive room that isn’t open to the public.
Capitol Hill memorial
In Seattle’s Capitol Hill district there is another memorial to Jimi, a statue of him on Broadway. This is smaller; we actually drove past it without seeing it the first time and had to ask for directions.
This bronze statue is properly known as The Electric Lady Studio Guitar. It depicts Hendrix, dropped to his knees, playing a Fender Stratocaster guitar. He is wearing a ruffled shirt, vest, and bell bottoms with his wild hair tied back in a scarf. It was modelled on his look at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
The statue was commissioned by Mike Malone, a real-estate developer, and its location on Broadway is near where Malone had his office. He was the founder of AEI Music Network, a music programming and distribution company. Clearly a big music fan, he has also commissioned statues of Chuck Berry (in University City, Missouri) and John Lennon.
The statue was created by Seattle artist Daryl Smith in 1997. It’s worth a stop if you’re in the area; but I thought the memorial in Renton was the more impressive of the two and a fitting tribute to the iconic rock legend.
MoPop, or the Museum of Popular Culture, sits near the foot of the Space Needle in the north west part of the city. The iconic building was designed by Frank O. Gehry. Originally named the Experience Music Project (EMP), Gehry is said to have been influenced by ‘a smashed electric guitar’ in creating this rather astounding structure made up of 3,000 stainless steel and painted aluminium panels. Its exhibits are a mix of permanent and temporary, music-focused and science fiction, plus other aspects of popular culture.
This is a must for any music fan, especially its Guitar Gallery. On display are instruments that belonged to a number of famous musicians, including the Rickenbacker played by Roger McGuinn on Mr Tamborine Man, and one which perhaps miraculously escaped being destroyed while in the possession of Pete Townshend! But for Jimi Hendrix fans the biggest draw is perhaps the Blue Angel gallery, which tells the story of his many tours abroad. Among other items on display are his passport and a diary he kept while on tour.
‘Purple Haze’ is one of Hendrix’s most famous songs, and was one of the first things I thought of on seeing Sandy’s Friendly Friday Challenge this week, with the topic of Purple. So I’ll finish with another few lines from the song.
Purple haze all in my eyes
Don’t know if it’s day or night
You got me blowin’, blowin’ my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?Jimi Hendrix
I visited Seattle in 2017