SEATTLE, WASH. — It had been very hot and sunny the last few days in Seattle, most unusual for this time of year. But on Thursday, October 1st the sun didn’t quite make it all the way out.
Down in the coffee shop of the Hilton Hotel, right by the airport, Jimi Hendrix‘s friends and associates were slowly gathering for breakfast. At the Hendrix family’s house in south Seattle, the family was getting ready. They would all meet at Dunlap Baptist Church on Ranier Avenue South, where Jimi’s funeral was to be held.
Nearly two weeks after his death in London, Jimi Hendrix was back in Seattle, his hometown, to be buried. The results of the inquest had been relayed from London; it was an “open verdict” in every sense of the word, but at this time nobody was really concerned with how he died anyhow. The reality of the present situation – Jimi’s funeral – said all that seemed to be said.
The funeral was to begin at the church at 1 PM. The Hendrix family had requested a small, private funeral for friends and relatives only. A pool reporter and pool photographer were allowed inside the church, but that was all. Rope barriers had been strung along either side of the walkway leading up to the church door, and press and onlookers stayed behind it.
The Seattle longhair community was most respectful of the family’s wishes. They stood quietly behind the ropes and watched as people walked into the church. They had also come to pay tribute to Jimi, for no other reason, and they provided none of the problems with crowd control that Seattle police had prepared for, just in case.
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The church itself was very simple, even dull. A small building, the chapel had no stained glass windows. At the front were the pulpit, the coffin, and a floral arrangement dominated by a large and striking guitar.
Dunlap Baptist Church is attended by Janie, Jimi’s nine-year-old sister. The Hendrix family had determined funeral arrangements, and chose to do it very traditionally. Participants were the Rev. Harold Blackburn, Mrs. Freddie Maye Gautier, a close friend of the family, who read the eulogy, and Patronella Wright, another family friend, who sang three beautiful spirituals backed by a gospel piano.
In her eulogy, Mrs. Gautier read from Jimi’s own works: “Electric Church” and “Angel.” The latter is the last song Hendrix wrote and recorded at Electric Lady, his New York studios, before he left for Europe in August to play the Isle of Wight. It is an ominous song, even more so in the context in which it was read:
Angel came down from heaven
She stayed with me just Long enough to rescue me.
And she told me a story yesterday,
About the sweet love between the Moon and the deep sea.
And then she spread her wings High over me.
She said she’s gonna come back
And I said fly on my sweet angel,
Fly on through the sky,
Fly on my sweet angel,
Tomorrow I’m gonna be by your
Sure enough this woman came back
Silver wings silhouetted against a
And my angel said to me,
Today is the day for you to rise.
Take my hand,
You’re gonna be my man,
You’re gonna rise.
Then she took me high over yonder.
And I said fly on my sweet angel,
Fly on through the sky,
Fly on my sweet angel,
Forever I will be by your side.
At the end of the short service, the people filed past the open casket and out of the church.
Then the pallbearers – Dave Anderson, James Thomas, Steve Phillips, Herbert Price, Eddy Howard, and Danny Howell – came out, bearing the coffin. With the exception of Price, who was Jimi’s chauffeur and valet in Hawaii this summer when a film was being made, all were friends from Jimi’s childhood.
From the church, the procession of perhaps 100 cars made the 20-minute drive to Greenwood Cemetery, in nearby Renton, where, after a few more words from Rev. Blackburn and a chorus of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” Jimi Hendrix, age 27, was returned to the earth.
(Hendrix’s birthdate on all his press biographies was listed as November 27th, 1945, when, in fact, he was born on November 27th, 1942, and was 27, not 24, when he died.)
* * *
It had been a hectic week in Seattle prior to the funeral. The ceremony itself had been put back a few times because the autopsy in London had been put back. Funeral arrangements – handled primarily by Michael Jeffery, Jimi’s manager, through his father, James Allan Hendrix – had been sometimes chaotic, an endless series of meetings and phone calls with Seattle officials.
Initially, there was talk of a huge rock and roll memorial service and jam. That was scotched quickly, partly due to lack of time to organize such an event, partly because the City of Seattle freaked at the idea. “If we can’t do it right, we won’t do it at all,” Jimi’s father said, and that settled that.
“It was never a really special thing when Jimi played Seattle,” promoter Tom Hulett said Thursday as we were driving away from the cemetery. “The press never played it up like the return of the home town boy, it wasn’t like a special gig for Jimi, and the kids didn’t really relate him to Seattle. When the press last week heard about the possibility of a big memorial concert, I think they started getting scared of something like another Woodstock. That was certainly one of the things.”
Hulett had promoted Jimi’s four Seattle gigs, as well as other West Coast dates. As one of Jimi’s closest friends in Seattle, he had been game to organize the memorial concert were it ever a real possibility. He did get together the gathering and jam session for friends and family that took place after the funeral.
Included in the funeral arrangements were all the people who called that week at the Hilton Hotel, where the Hendrix staff was staying, and who just had to go to the funeral.
Meanwhile, Jeffery himself had come under much criticism after Jimi’s death, and, while he insisted he didn’t want to “bad-rap” anyone, he felt compelled to answer charges against him. That meant mostly to answer Eric Burdon, as well as Buddy Miles.
Miles felt Jeffery had cheated him financially when he was a member of the Band of Gypsys, and, from that, he inferred that Jimi had been cheated too. Jeffery produced papers that bluntly disproved Buddy’s charges, and the rest of their dispute centered around basic personality conflcts. The bad feelings between them had all but subsided by Thursday, out of respect for Jimi, and Thursday night, the drummer said he wanted nothing but to forget the whole unpleasant affair.
Burdon was something else. He had gone on BBC television shortly after Jimi’s death and made some statements that apalled Jeffery and most everyone else. He claimed that Jimi had “made his exit when he wanted to”; that he “used a drug to phase himself out of this life and go someplace else.”
He also said that he had a poem which Jimi had written just before he died – it was not presented at the inquest, and he could be prosecuted for withholding evidence – and added that Jimi was ” . . . handing me a legacy to continue the work of bringing the audio-visual medium together.” His first project, he says, will be a film called The Truth About Jimi Hendrix, and he further plans to use the poem as the climax of the film.
Burdon never showed for the funeral.
He was in San Francisco the next weekend, though, appearing with his new group, War. He said that he didn’t go to the funeral because Jimi had told him before that he hated Seattle, and Eric thought it improper to bury him there. He also says now that if he ever described the poem as a “suicide note” – which he did – he meant it figuratively.
Burdon also claims Jeffery, his former manager, took him to the cleaners. Jeffery, however, says that it was Yameta, a Bahamian management firm, that is unable to account for the money that Burdon says is missing, and that he, Jeffery, lost out as well. Jeffery also says that he offered to jointly sue Yameta with Burdon, but Burdon turned around and filed suit against him instead. The outcome of that will be determined by New York courts.
As concerns Hendrix, though – for the constant inference, never stated outright, is that Jeffery was bilking Hendrix – his money all went straight to an independent New York accountant (who also handles finances for Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman), and Jeffery produced more papers to show that he never sees a cent until the accountant pays him the standard manager’s fee, out of Jimi’s earnings, per the contract agreement. Such papers are pretty hard to argue with.
All of this seemed pretty irrelevant to Jimi’s friends and fellow musicians, who started arriving at the Hilton in Seattle in large numbers Tuesday, and continued coming in right up to the day of the funeral.
Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell – the other two-thirds of the Jimi Hendrix Experience – got in from England Tuesday night, along with roadies Jerry Stickles and the perpetually cheerful Eric Barrett.
“Look at the beauty in his music and lyrics; what more can you say?” asked Redding.
“I think people are trying to make it like some kind of Judy Garland syndrome. It’s getting too fucking theatrical,” said Mitchell. “All I hope for is the man is in peace at last. All he ever wanted to do was play his guitar, he just wanted to play music which says ‘Here, I’ve got this energy, and go and do what you want, but direct it somewhere’.”
“Last week I was looking at a film script Jimi was working on, and in the margin he had written ‘Don’t raise me up; I am but a messenger.’ That’s definitely the direction he was going in,” Jeffery said. “He realized the power of soul, as one of his own songs said. He was an up, one of the highest people I’ve ever known, and he was getting more and more spiritual. To my mind, his music was the music of the new religion.
“His stage image halted him, though, and that was frustrating for him. That old ghost from the past – the humping the guitar, the ‘Foxy Lady’ stuff. Because that wasn’t the true Jimi Hendrix, that ballsy, raunchy image. And as he was becoming more and more spiritual, he wanted more to fling that image off, and just play his music.”
Johnny Winter and his manager, Steve Paul, arrived. Paul’s New York club, The Scene, was one of Jimi’s favorite places; he spent many evenings there jamming with whoever wanted to get up on the stage with him. John Hammond Jr. slipped in quietly with Al Aronowitz, the New York music writer whose column in the Post has included some of the most lucid words about Jimi and his art. Miles Davis checked into another hotel downtown, and came to the funeral Thursday. He said afterwards that Jimi’s were the only albums he listens to at home. Buddy Miles and his whole band were at the Holiday Inn.
Abe Jacob, who did the sound on two Hendrix tours, arrived. “He was the easiest person in the business to do sound for,” Jacob said. “He was loud, but he was so careful himself with the sound.”
Chuck Wein, who had filmed Hendrix in Hawaii several months earlier, discussed the movie. “Jimi was extraordinarily sensitive; he could talk to someone just a minute, and know right where their heads were at. He was aware of the whole planet, and his relation to it,” Chuck said. “The movie will surprise a lot of people; it shows a side of Jimi that few really knew at all.” It’s called Rainbow Bridge, and Chuck is still editing. It will still be released, as a tribute.
And late Wednesday night, Eddie Kramer, the dapper chief engineer at Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios, arrived. He has spent as much time in a recording studio with Jimi as anyone – and Hendrix spent hours upon hours in studios – and Thursday morning he was talking about the spate of Hendrix albums that will undoubtedly be released now.
“I’m certain there’s all kinds of unscrupulous people in the business, who shall remain nameless, that will release tapes of Jimi now. We’ll just have to try to do our best with Warner Brothers to stop it. The thing is, these people will put them out on the basis that any Jimi Hendrix music is good music.
“And that’s not true! I know it and Jimi knew it. He had to have everything just perfect by his standards, and he never did that same thing twice. He’d lay down tracks, and every time he put his guitar over it, and played it different. Sometimes he’d take tapes home and listen to them all night, and the next day he’d come in and do it entirely different. You should have seen him – he’d be down there grimacing and straining, trying to get it to come out of the guitar the way he heard it in his head. If you could ever transcribe the sound in a man’s head directly onto the tape . . . Whew!” he said.
Jimi left behind, according to Kramer, about two albums worth of studio cuts, and a superb live album recorded at Royal Albert Hall. They will be released soon. There’s lots more Hendrix tapes that few will ever hear, however; if they can’t cut what’s already cut, Jimi’s associates feel, it wouldn’t be fair to his memory to release them.
* * *
The gathering that followed the funeral was described by many as a wake, and it was certainly closer in spirit to Jimi Hendrix than what had preceded it that day. The musical tribute was held in the Food Circus building of the Seattle Center, directly below the Space Needle left over from the World’s Fair. Hulett had arranged for music, there was food and the atmosphere was much lighter.
The only hitch came when the program director from KOL-FM, there by Hulett’s special invitation, called his station to say he’d be late for work because he was down at the Food Circus with the Hendrix family, Mitch and Noel, George Harrison and so forth. Besides the fact that he named some personalities who weren’t there (George wasn’t), it went out over the air and Hulett spent much of the rest of the afternoon telling the hundreds who gathered outside that the Hendrix family preferred it remain a private gathering for friends and relatives. He was understandably upset that he was put in this position (the location had been kept secret to avoid just such a scene), but, again, the kids understood, and cooperated.
Inside, the Buddy Miles Express played a full set. From there, it turned into a free-wheeling jam, started off by Miles, Redding, Winter and Hammond. Pretty soon Mitchell took over on drums, the two guitarists fell out, and it was like that for the rest of the afternoon, with the musicians stepping in and out, or trading axes. Jimi’s young cousin, Eddie Hall, displayed a fast and fluid blues guitar, and the music went on into the early evening.
This story is from the October 29th, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone.