The first time I visited the Jimi Hendrix Memorial was in December, 2011. It was a late on a cold and bleak winter afternoon, and I was on my way to back to New Jersey from visiting family in Olympia, Washington for Christmas. Enroute to SEA-TAC airport my brother and I made a short side stop in Renton where the memorial park is located. Jimi was actually from another nearby town, not Seattle, as most people think. I can’t remember the name but I do remember is that he went to Garfield High School, which is in Seattle.
The Forty-Sixth Anniversary
Jimi Hendrix influenced, and continues to influence, millions of artists…
Fast forward to September 18, 2016. My friend Ric was in town for a few days and rented a place in Bellevue, a really nice suburb of Seattle that’s home base to such Rock luminaries as the guys from Queensryche and the Wilson sisters of Heart fame. We had planned to meet up after he arrived and since Ric is a huge Hendrix fan I thought Jimi’s memorial would be a good place to go. It was a beautiful September afternoon and there were a lot people hanging out sharing the good vibe with more showing up every half hour or so. Seattle has a reputation for overcast, dreary, put a gun to your head weather, and in the winter months it’s true, but in the late Spring, Summer and early Fall it is absolutely stellar. What hadn’t occurred to either of us was that it was the 46th anniversary of Jimi’s death…on the very day we were visiting. That explained the number of people there. There was something bordering on a celebratory air, and rightly so…Jimi Hendrix achieved legendary status as an artist and musician, an accomplishment that few artists get to realize. Of course, that kind of success comes with a huge price in terms of privacy and one’s sanity. But he was a soft-spoken, seemingly down to earth, nice guy despite his fame and fortune.
Jimi Hendrix’ Influence
When you visit a place like Renton you see it’s a very unremarkable place and you realize that uniquely gifted people can come from anywhere. I had discussed this with my brother afterwards, how those people who achieve great things in their lives often come from small, out of the way, nowhere places. Thinking about it serves to ground the hugeness of a person’s celebrity; not detracting from it but putting it in perspective; not necessarily stoned but beautiful, as one of Jimi’s lyrics emotes. That may or may not fit, but it came to mind and seemed appropriate in an artistic, abstract way.
The main thing is that Jimi Hendrix influenced, and continues to influence, millions of musicians, artists…and just people. Pretty incredible to consider when you drive around Renton and see that it’s basically “anywheresville” USA. Most everyday places are searingly desolate in terms of excitement. And Jimi’s family wasn’t exactly well-off so you wonder how a gifted person like him could have evolved and ‘made it;’ not only to international stardom but to the mythical eternal pantheon of Rock innovators. The question in my mind is always, how did they do it, against all odds? I guess you could ask the same question of Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi, who both come from working-class towns in New Jersey. The whole thing seems hugely improbable. But Jimi’s influence is continuing and legendary. He changed the way the electric guitar is played and he was a prolific songwriter as well. You wonder what he would have accomplished had he lived. There’s no way to know but he certainly accomplished a lot in his short time on Earth.
Visiting his memorial is an almost surreal experience. Your mind can’t fully grasp that you’re really standing there; it seems more like a movie playing in front of you. But the ‘experience’ brings you down to earth and you realize that we are all human. And the Jimi Hendrix Memorial is beautiful place. There are flowers there all the time that fans bring and instruments that anyone can pick up and play, and you will meet other fans and share stories. A very positive experience. It’s definitely worth the short drive if you’re in Seattle. And you’ll meet lots of other trippy people who come to feel the love and dig on the vibe of the happening!
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