I made a pilgrimage to the former home and gravesite of two of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll performers: Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.
Hendrix moved into 23 Brook Street in London in 1968, and two years ago, the bedroom and living room of the home have become a museum. Ironically, the legendary composer George Frideric Handel lived there more than 200 years earlier.
Hendrix, who apparently was delighted to find out that Handel had once lived nearby, insisted he had once seen the composer’s ghost step through the wall, describing the image as “an old guy in a nightshirt and gray pigtail.”
One reviewer noted about Hendrix’s third-floor rooms: “The kitchen was rarely used, with room service supplied by Mr Love’s, the restaurant downstairs, whose waiters carried regular orders of steak and chips, a bottle of Mateus rosé, and 20 cigarettes, up the narrow stairs. Nights were late and noisy, with the flat regularly filled to bursting with whichever musicians had been in that night’s club.”
His former girlfriend, who participated in the design of the museum, reportedly complained that the exhibit was too messy.
After his years in the U.S. Army, Hendrix was obsessively neat, she recalled. The bed may have been draped in hippyesque fabrics under a canopy made from an embroidered silk shawl but was meticulously made with hospital corners, and the pillows and cushions squared up.
Another room at the museum has a wall of album covers, and an index of the music played on the Bang & Olufsen turntable. Remnants from Hendrix’s own collection included a copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited stained with Hendrix’s blood from cutting his hand on a broken wine glass.
I may have been the only visitor who saw Jimi in concert, which was an amazing performance in 1969 when he played his iconic The Star Spangled Banner.
For more information, see https://handelhendrix.org/
Morrison’s grave in Paris is one of the most frequently visited tombs in the world. Established in 1804 by Napoléon Bonaparte, the Pére-Lachaise Cemetery, where Morrison is buried, contains the remains of celebrated artists, writers, and musicians, including Edith Piaf, Max Ernst, and Oscar Wilde.
Morrison died July 3, 1971, under mysterious circumstances. His girlfriend and an acquaintance quickly arranged for the burial without an autopsy.
As a teenager in a rock ‘n’ roll band, I sang many of Jimi and Jim’s songs. I couldn’t resist a tribute to Morrison, with my rendition of Light My Fire.
Jimi and Jim could not escape their personal demons, but they left a body of work that endures decades later.