In the early years of the last decade, I traveled to Seattle several times on business. I learned that the best way to get back home was to take the red-eye flight, which left Sea-Tac late at night and arrived in Chicago at exactly 2-freaking-early in the AM. To spend a night in Seattle would have meant a day flying home, and so I traded a night at the hotel for a day at home, where I occasionally got the sleep I needed.
The rental cars back then had an early version of GPS installed. I liked that feature because, no matter where I went off to, I could put in the hotel’s address and get back to where I was supposed to be. And it also had a feature that came in very handy one day.
My best guess is that it was March or April of 2004 when this happened. I was done for the day, and had some time to kill before I had to be at the airport. I went to the “Local points of interest” feature on the rental car’s GPS, hoping that it could give me something to do over the coming three hours or so. I scanned past bowling alleys and other things that didn’t look very interesting before coming to the “Jimi Hendrix gravesite” in Renton. Imagine that! In ten minutes I could be at the grave of the most influential guitarist who’s ever lived. Nothing else the GPS could offer me would ever top that.
I drove to the cemetery, thinking that it would be similar to the scene at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. I’ll just look for the faithful, I told myself. But no such luck. I had to wander around, looking for Hendrix, until I came upon a simple stone in the ground with the dates of his birth and death. It did have a guitar engraved on it, but other than that it was as unremarkable as could be. In the years since then, a more elaborate marker has been put in, but I’m glad that I saw it when I did.
In the days before satellite radio, I took a few CDs along with me on trips. And I didn’t have any Hendrix, but I did have a copy of Stevie Ray Vaughn playing an instrumental version of Hendrix’ “Little Wing.” So I turned the car on, put that CD in, played it as loud as I could, and considered how much he added to the sound and the spirit of rock and roll. It was a humble tribute, but one that came from my heart.
I bring this up now because September 18 is the anniversary of Hendrix’ death in 1970. I was just a young child when Jimi passed away, but as I got older, I learned to appreciate the amazing musical legacy he left behind. And something that he said once continues to inspire me, so I wanted to share it here. My hope is that others might find it to be inspirational, too.
In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, there’s an exhibit of things from Jimi’s life, including some football sketches that he would sell in his pre-musician days. It’s not too surprising that a guitar player would also have some artistic ability, is it? Not to me, it isn’t.
But above all of the Hendrix artifacts was a quote which really got my attention. Hendrix once said “I hear sounds, and if I don’t put them together, nobody else will.” I read this and thought about the things that I write about here.
Every piece in this space, no matter how long or short, began as an idea inside my head. Moving these ideas into a form that the rest of the world can see takes some work, but it’s work that has to be done by me, or else it won’t get done. Jimi did that with his music, and I’m doing that too, just in a different and less rockin’ form. You gotta take it wherever you can find it.
This post is dedicated to the creative spirit of Jimi Hendrix, who gave us much in the short time he was here, and still gives us things today.