Close-up of head sculpted in bronze
Culture & tradition,  Friendly Friday,  Washington State

Purple Haze: remembering Jimi Hendrix

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 sky

Jimi 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 me

Jimi 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

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

21 Comments

  • Manja Maksimovič

    You see, I got to know Seattle through Tom Robbins and the 90s music, especially Pearl Jam. So when I heard later that Jimi Hendrix was also from there, I found it hard to believe. But then again, it figures. I love the purple flowers touch.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for visiting Manja 😀 I think there are quite a few musicians associated with Seattle and the surrounding area. Hendrix is probably the most famous, and maybe Nirvana who originated in Aberdeen to the south west.

  • Forestwood

    What a legend he was – and what a legacy. It is a shame it ended far too soon. I am amazed at the talented line-up that Mari mentioned at the Isle of Wight festival. It sounds like it could rival Woodstock.
    This was a very apt subject for Sandy’s prompt!

  • maristravels

    Edging back into commenting after my break! We also have a Jimi Hendrix statue at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, where he appeared at the third Pop Festival in 1970 (his last appearance in the UK), alongside giants like The Doors, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Procol Harum, Lighthouse, the Moody Blues, the Who, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Sly and the Family Stone, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and about twenty others (remember Tiny Tim?). The Guinness Book of Records says between 600,000 and 700,000 attended: the island had never seen anything like it before and the Victorian influencers made sure it wouldn’t see anything like it again for many more years! Sodom & Gomorrah! The weekend ticket cost £3. This year’s pop festival, about to kick-off, is charging in the region of £235 for the weekend ticket.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Mari, good to see you back 🙂 You seem to have left this comment twice under different accounts so I deleted the other one – hope that’s OK!

      I remember that IOW Festival and the stir it caused – and yes, I remember Tiny Tim! Can you imagine paying just £3 to hear all those greats?!!

  • bushboy

    Great informative post from a grateful Jimi Hendrix fan. I have all his records on vinyl plus other stuff. Pity he never made it to Australia. “Fly on my sweet angel, fly on through the sky”

    • Sarah Wilkie

      It’s really worth the detour. My husband is the real Hendrix fan especially as he plays guitar himself, but anyone with an interest in rock music has to be interested in Hendrix and the influence he had. Plus it’s cool to see the different tributes left by the fans, and I liked the way some of his lyrics were incorporated into the memorial.

  • rosalieann37

    I know of two songs with Purple in the title- the one I thought of immediately was Purple Rain. But the other one was the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater. Once I was walking down Duval Street in Key West at lunch time and I looked in the door of a bar, and under a purple spotlight was a man with purple hair singing that song except he substituted the word Pecker for People.

    I have been to Renton – I went when I was taking a work course in Seattle in1994. I didn’t know that Jimi Hendrix was buried there (and I wouldn’t have been able to visit his grave if I had known as I didn’t have a car). And MoPOP had not been built yet. I went down to Renton (on the bus) to take the Spirit of Washington dinner train.

    On VT I wrote about Renton –

    Renton was originally known as Black Ridge, and settled by Erasmus Smithers in 1856, the city of Renton was incorporated in 1901. What started as a coal-mining town is now the home to Boeing, Paccar, and the Spirit of Washington. Excavations have revealed settlements of Duwamish Indians dating back to 1790. The dinner train moved their terminal there in 1992

    Near here is also the BOEING PLANT – The largest airplane manufacturer in the world, and is home to the 737s and 757s. The 737 is the best selling commercial airplane in history.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for the additional info re Renton Rosalie. I knew about Boeing although I don’t recall seeing their plant, but not about that early history and the original name. As for ‘Flying Purple People Eater’, I’ve never heard of that but I spotted another blogger using it in the ‘Purple’ post. Maybe it wasn’t ever really played over here.

  • SandyL

    I like your different take on the challenge Sarah. I know Jimmy Hendrix by reputation & find it amazing that he has such a fan base fifty years later. Seems like purple was a favorite for rock stars. I know of at least one other famous song with purple in the title. I’m waiting to see if anyone else offers it up for FFC 😉

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