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Hello And Goodbye

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Hello and Goodbye

There had been none like him, and there will be none to come. Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the way guitar and music in general was played. He was a mirror of his era in that he epitomized the "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" life style of the late 60s. Hendrix is still immensely popular today because of his unprecedented guitar style coupled with an outrageous lifestyle and stage show. All that this legend accomplished in life, in his eyes, may have felt to go unnoticed even stating at one point, in 1968, "It's funny the way most people love the dead...Once you are dead you are made for life. You have to die before they think you are worth anything" (Lawrence 255). Apparently his words are true, since he will always be an idol in rock and roll history. A major part of why Hendrix had such an appeal to the ladies was the mystery of who he was. Hendrix was a quiet and introverted person that rarely told anyone how he felt about them. His inconsistent parenting, loss of his mother at the early age of fifteen, and lack of meaningful relationships in life only encouraged this type of behavior. This enabled him to focus on the only thing that was ever there for him on a constant basis-his guitar.

A Legend Is Born

The legend was born November 27, 1942, in Seattle, to James Allen (Al) and Lucille Jeter Hendrix. His given name was Johnny Allen Hendrix (Cross 15). His mother was a Cherokee Indian who had tuberculosis but despite that she was wild and loved to party (Cross 8). For the first years of young Jimi's life, he was taken from house to house. Al Hendrix was in the army and young Lucille was left to raise her newborn. The pair survived on the kindness of others to feed and house them (Lawrence 15). Throughout these vital first years of Jimi's life, it is said that Lucille did not even know how to change a diaper, and although there was a lack of parenting taking place, Jimi still idolized his mother very much (Cross 18). Lucille would sing and dance with her young "Buster," as they called Jimi because he looked like a television cartoon character that was popular when he was born (Lawrence 9). Al Hendrix wanted to be involved in his young child's life but was unable to be granted leave because the army feared that he would go AWOL (Lawrence 17). When Jimi was four, his father was done with his enlistment and took him away from Lucille to make a fresh start. Al did not agree with the way that Lucille was raising their son and wanted to provide a fatherly role in Jimi's life (Lawrence 36). This is when his father renamed him James Marshall Hendrix (Cross 19). According to Cherokee legend, if a child is named twice it will split his eternal spirit into two different parts-half will go to heaven and half will go to hell (Lawrence 38). Although this is just a belief, the name change and inconsistency may have been the underlying cause of Jimi's turbulent youth.

After having young Jimi to himself for a few months, Al reconciled with Lucille and they decided to life together again. At this time they both decided that their marriage was a priority over parenting and engaged in a partying lifestyle. Buster was often left to be taken care of by family members or friends, and before he knew it, he had a brother on the way. His young brother was born in January of 1948, and Al named the baby Leon (Cross 20). Leon's birth marked the apex of the family's good times. Al was so enamored of his new son that everything in their lives improved (Cross 21). It was immediately clear to all-including Jimi-that Leon was Al's favorite. Jimi told his cousin Dee, "Daddy and Mommy are crazy about my little brother; they like him better than they like me" (Cross 23).

Jimi turned ten on Thanksgiving Day, 1952. Though Al and Lucille were officially divorced, his parents were briefly living together again (Cross 25). Lucille often came and went and this caused much confusion in the lives of Jimi and Leon. "When Mom was home, we could smell bacon and pancakes cooking in the morning," Leon recalled, "and we would jump up yelling, 'Mama's home!' But that would only last a day because they would be drinking and arguing, and Mama would leave" (Cross 25).

The confusion only continued throughout Jimi's childhood, as he was sent to his Mom's house for means of punishment. Eventually he and his brother decided they liked being with their Mom better, and soon Jimi and Leon would get in trouble on purpose to spend time with their Mom. Al would use abuse as a form of punishment and would give the boys what he called "whippings," spankings done with a belt (Cross 26). Sometimes Al would get too drunk and forget why he was whipping Jimi. As Jimi grew larger, he began to resist these whippings by grabbing the belt and holding on to it, so Al couldn't strike him (Cross 26). Al continued to drink and gamble heavily and, at times, did not even come home to feed or take care of his children (Cross 27). Jimi used to be so hungry that he would go to the grocery store and steal for himself and his brother. He would open a loaf of bread and pull out two pieces and close it back up, then go to the meat department and steal a package of ham to make a sandwich out of it.

In April of 1953, Jimi switched schools and was now attending one of the most integrated elementary schools in Seattle (Cross 42). He met up with the boys who would become his closest childhood friends: Terry Johnson, Pernell Alexander, and Jimmy Williams (Cross 42). They created their own family and would also be taken care of by Pernell's grandmother. She would feed the group breakfast every morning before school (Cross 42). Jimmy and Jimi because inseparable because they were both introverts. These friendships would prove to be the only friendships Jimi would have throughout his childhood (Cross 51).

A Tragic Loss

It was health issues related to drinking that prompted Lucille's next visit with her sons. She had landed in Harborview Hospital twice in the fall of 1957, suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. In mid-January 1958, freshly married, she was back in the hospital with hepatitis (Cross 56). The boys were allowed to visit her in the hospital and were shocked by their mother's colorless appearance in a wheelchair and by the deterioration she had suffered since they had last seen her (Cross 56). Two weeks after her last visit with Jimi and Leon, Lucille Jeter Hendrix Mitchell died. Lucille had died of a ruptured spleen with contributing conditions of portal hypertension and portal cirrhosis (Cross 58). A friend came to the house to tell



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