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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 14:52 GMT
Paris show remembers Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix's first love was his guitar

Paris is celebrating what would have been the 60th birthday of the rock legend, Jimi Hendrix, with the first exhibition outside the US to include the star's childhood possessions.

Hendrix, who shot to fame in swinging 60s London, died in his bed at the age of 27 after mixing wine and sleeping pills.

He'd arrived in the capital only four years earlier with everything he owned packed into his guitar case.


My music is my personal diary - a release of my inner feelings, aggression, tenderness, sympathy, everything

Jimi Hendrix
At a time when many women were burning their bras, Hendrix quickly found fame with an act that included burning his guitar.

What is left of the Fender Stratocaster that Hendrix famously smashed and set alight at 1967's Californian rock festival is being flown to Paris, to celebrate his birthday on November 27th.

It will join the three-month exhibition at Cité de la Musique in Paris's grungy 19th arrondissement, which has boyhood sketches as well as family photos and his teenage record collection and gramophone player.

It's no surprise that Cité de la Musique is marking Jimi Hendrix's landmark birthday.

Hendrix's guitar
Some of his instruments are on show
It was French rock star Johnny Halliday who discovered the 23-year old at London club Blaises and hired him on the spot as support act for his home tour.

With Noel Redding recruited as bass player and Mitch Mitchell on the drums, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.

But the exhibition reveals that his talents did not just lie with music - he was also a talented artist.

Amongst those of his idol Elvis Presley is one the 15-year old Hendrix produced after he attended a concert in his hometown of Seattle.

Other sketches show his fascination with science fiction and the supernatural as well as Native American Indian culture - his paternal grandmother had Cherokee blood.

Hendrix's guitar
This one survived being onstage with Hendrix
Not many photos remain of Hendrix's boyhood. But the exhibition has some on loan from his half-sister Janie showing him as a gawky smiling teenager playing his guitar in front of the family home.

The exhibition also features some of his early record collection, which includes jazz greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Muddy Waters, who helped to bring the blues up from the old cotton plantations in the Deep South to Chicago.

But most influential of all were records from the American guitarist Robert Johnson, whose tragic fate was to mirror Hendrix's own.

An inveterate womaniser from a broken family, Johnson died from poisoning at the age of 27.

Hendrix on stage
Hendrix was famed for his electric performances
Elsewhere are the first imprints of Hendrix's own recordings with the likes of The Isley Brothers and Little Richard from his time on the Chitlin' Circuit - named after the cheap sausage meat used to describe black musicians shunned by the media struggling to make a name for themselves.

There's his jacket from the concert at Rainbow Bridge in Hawaii and from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.

Amazingly, there are also scraps of songs written on hotel letter-headed paper like Belly Button Window, written on the road the year before he died.

His recording equipment like his old wah wah pedal is also on display, as well as 300 original LP covers from all over the world, and films and photos from his life in the fast lane.

Renamed

If you want to, you can even listen to the Berkeley concert in 5.1 surround sound.

Hendrix's early life is also explored in the exhibition.

Born Johnny Allen to 17- year old mother, Lucille, in 1942, his father, Al, was away serving in the army.

In the meantime, Hendrix's mother drank and played the field. Al came home, divorced his wife, renamed his 3-year old son James Marshall and brought him up alone.

But Lucille continued to exert a powerful influence. When she died at the age of just 32, Hendrix's father gave his grieving son a ukulele to console him.

Hectic

The youngster started to pour himself into his playing. Next came an acoustic guitar and the rest is history.

Hendrix briefly enlisted in a parachute regiment but it wasn't long before he was in Nashville working as a session musician perfecting his act playing the guitar with his teeth and between his legs - something he'd picked up from performers like T-Bone Walker.

In the four years before his death in 1970, Hendrix's hectic schedule produced 530 concerts.

A roadie's diary tells of 19,000 miles of driving during a nine-week US tour that didn't include the flights Hendrix and his crew had to make.

But perhaps the most poignant item on show in Paris is the back of a guitar. On it, Hendrix has written a love poem.

It ends with the words: "My darling guitar¿ please rest in peace. Amen."

The exhibition, called Jimi Hendrix Backstage at Music Museum, is on at Cité de La Musique, Paris until 12 January 2003

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