Experiencing Hendrix’s Seattle
Posted April 13, 2007

On a spring break to Washington, one has to keep in mind one of the state’s greatest contributors to music.

No not the Sonics, the Wailers, Bing Crosby, Nevermore, Quincy Jones, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Bikini Kill, the Melvins, Nirvana, Mudhoney or even Kenny G, but the one and only Jimi Hendrix.

It is Hendrix who has a towering memorial grave in Renton, a suburb outside of Seattle.

It is Hendrix whose name and music inspired the Experience Music Project.

The Experience Music Project is an interactive music museum that tells the evolving story of Washington’s music and pays homage to its namesake, Jimi Hendrix.

In Renton, Wash., at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery, only 15 minutes from downtown Seattle, his body lies buried under an impressive, almost 30-foot-high dome supported by three granite and marble columns.

On sunny days, the shiny grey marble glitters in the sun, and on the more frequent rainy days, the strong solid marble makes for a beautiful sight in the clear, cold rain.

His grave is in plain sight from the cemetery parking lot.

It sits off to the side almost completely by itself, save for the Oriental-inspired grave markers behind it, their pagoda rooftops shielding them from the rain.

The graves of five other Hendrixes surround the center of the memorial, including that of Jimi’s father Al Hendrix, his stepmother, Ayako “June” Hendrix and his grandmother Nora Hendrix.

Jimi’s body lies in the center of the memorial, under a block of granite with the original headstone that reads “Forever in Our Hearts James M. 'Jimi' Hendrix: 1942-1970.”

At the base of the structure, on the right side of the headstone and carved into the marble, is the rock god’s signature, stretching almost three feet across.

On the other side, to the left of the headstone are the words “Jimi Hendrix Memorial.”

Small dips in the marble hold potted plants, the red and yellow chrysanthemums bringing to mind Jimi in all his flamboyant ‘60s outfits.

The memorial itself is amazing. Without being intimidating, it commands reverence from all its visitors.

It is nice to see an artist so noticeably honored, so taken to heart.
Jimi’s grave was moved to this site in 2003.

Although plans still continue for a life size bronze statue, the memorial is perfect the way it is.

Visitors from all different backgrounds and musical styles come to stare at and touch the memorial.

One can almost hear Jimi’s shredded, maniacal guitar weaving its way through the silence.

One of many other Hendrix-inspired sights, the Experience Music Project is a huge one-of-a-kind museum.

It tells the history of rock ‘n’ roll through exhibits and interactive programs.

It also houses the world’s largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.
The EMP is affordable, at $15 a ticket, although no photography of any kind is allowed.

There are enough captured moments in rock history shown throughout the museum that pictures become irrelevant.

One must already hold a passion for this music and its influence if inside the EMP.

Upon entering, a screen playing video footage of Hendrix and other artists catches the eye.

Walking up the stairs to the first floor of rock memorabilia, visitors pass by a huge, plastic Granny Smith apple, a reference to the Beatles’ Apple record label.

Farther on is a costume worn by KISS legend Gene Simmons.

The entire EMP is filled with such rarities.

Costumes, musical instruments, records, pictures, posters and soundbites are everywhere.

They tell the story of how rock, an offspring of jazz, soul, gospel, country and the blues, came to inspire many to play it and translate it into newer music genres such as hip hop and punk.

An exhibit entitled the “Northwest Passage” shares how rock music began in the area as a relatively unheard scene and became a renowned phenomenon through the ‘90s grunge era.

A guitar gallery showcases the origins of guitars and how various cultures created them, finally coming to rest on the electric guitar and how it changed music forever, becoming a symbol of rock ‘n’ roll.

The Jimi Hendrix exhibit holds so many different artifacts. For Jimi fans, it is a beautiful sight.

From the music, records, writings and costumes to his personal life, shown here by pictures, journals, drawings, family items, and much more, the collection is a rarity.

It covers his musical career and his individual life.

One hears his voice in recordings, playing throughout the exhibit and one sees his talent in various aspects, from his obvious music talent to his little known drawing capabilities.

Jimi is on in full color at the EMP and it is a wonderful sight.

Along with a few other make-your-own music exhibits, these three are permanent, but the EMP does offer space for traveling exhibits.

Right now the exhibit hosted is a Disney display of music and the impact it has had on Disney’s empire.

The exhibit features recordings, photographs and interactive games, showcasing how music has captured audiences, propelled movies and inspired everything from cartoons, television shows and theme parks to Broadway hits, movies and the pop charts.

Other exhibits the EMP hosts are on display or on tour in other parts of the world.

A collection of Bob Dylan artifacts is on display at the Weismann Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minn., and over 60 portraits of famous musicians by Annie Leibovitz are on tour throughout Europe.

These two monuments, the memorial grave and the Experience Music Project, revere Jimi Hendrix in all his musical, profound and inspiring glory.

The state of Washington welcomes all those who seek to become part of the Hendrix family. But it is the city of Seattle that calls Jimi Hendrix her son.

Not just any son, but one that has done so much to bring many lost and wandering souls back to the heart of real rock ‘n’ roll music.

Lilia Cabello can be reached at lcabello@ulv.edu.

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