Friday, December 27, 2013

Visiting the Final Resting Place of a Hero: Jimi Hendrix's Grave


Growing up, my dad made sure I had a rich, cultured, and thorough knowledge of music.  We listened to the whole gamut: classical music, opera, grass roots, and of course, rock.  My dad is a huge fan of 60's and 70's rock, particularly the kind with wailing, intricate guitar riffs and solos.  Some of our favorites were Cream, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, to name a few.  Oh yes, and Jimi Hendrix.  Good ol' Jimi!

In the summer of 2011, I weaseled in on a family road trip with my neighbor, Jana, and her two kids.  We decided to head down for some touristy fun to Seattle, Washington.  It was a total blast - Jana is just like me in that she likes to see everything and anything an area has to offer while visiting.  One of the things we learned about the Seattle region is that you can go visit the grave site of my former guitar hero, Jimi Hendrix, in a little town called Renton just south of Seattle.

tomb of Jimi Hendrix Seattle
During a trip to Seattle, I got to visit the grave site of one of my teenage idols.

Before driving through Renton, I'd had the chance to stroll through the extremely interesting EMP Museum in downtown Seattle.  The EMP Museum, or "Experience Music Project" Museum, is dedicated to Seattle-based musicians who made a mark on the music industry during their rise to fame.  Nirvana was naturally a main feature, and so was dear old Jimi.  It was cool to walk the aisles of the exhibit and see Jimi's personal collection of guitars, some of his more famous and flamboyant outfits, and read some of his own handwritten notes about music.  It was also the perfect way to gear up for a quick jaunt out to his tomb to pay my respects.

One of Jimi's more famous outfits - no, the color has NOT been photoshopped!

One of Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitars at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

Renton, as stated before, is just south of Seattle, about a 25 minute drive from the EMP Museum if you want to hop right to it after visiting Jimi's exhibit. Once you enter Renton, you are looking for the Greenwood Memorial Park, on 350 Monroe Avenue NE.  (If you have a GPS, it comes in handy for sure!)  There are no major signs or billboards - the cemetery looks just like any other, so don't rely on guideposts to help you find your way.

The Hendrix family tomb in Renton, Washington, just south of Seattle.

Once you reach Greenwood, you will then be able to locate Jimi's grave quite easily.  His plot is a family plot, and his tomb is a giant stone gazebo filled with etched pictures and lyrics from his songs.  Jimi is buried with all sorts of members of his family, although naturally his tomb is the biggest and most prominent.  It is free to enter Greenwood and to pay your respects to Mr. Hendrix, so don't worry about visiting an ATM first.

One of the beautifully etched plaques that guard Jimi's grave.

For those younger people who don't know much about Jimi Hendrix, here is a quick breakdown: Hendrix was born in Seattle and became famous for his experimental and influential guitar playing (think "Purple Haze" or his riotous version of "Star Spangled Banner").  He is considered one of the greatest songwriters and musicians in American history.  He is also, sadly, part of the "27 Club", a group of fast-living, hard-partying rockers who seem to meet tragedy at the age of 27.  When Jimi was 27, he died in London, England after suffocating on his own vomit following an overdose of barbiturates.

Me beside the tomb of Jimi Hendrix.

For me, it was an honor to stand at his grave site and leave a token for myself and for my father, who first introduced me to his music.  I know it might be a macabre task to accomplish during a family summer vacation, but the significance for me was more reverent than morbid.  I am glad that I had the chance to visit!

No comments:

Post a Comment