Thursday, 13 November 2008

Mitch Mitchell R.I.P.

Mitch Mitchell, the iconic drummer who provided the explosive heartbeat of the Jimi Hendrix Experience on rock classics including "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and "Purple Haze," was found dead early Wednesday in a Portland hotel room.
Mitchell, 61, who pioneered a fusion style that allowed him and one of history's greatest guitar players to feed off each other, died of natural causes, the Multnomah County medical examiner said. He was found about 3 a.m. in his room at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland.
Considered one of rock's greatest drummers, Mitchell was behind the kit at Hendrix's legendary sets at Woodstock, Monterey and the Isle of Wight.
Mitch Mitchell, from his MySpace page
Mitchell's final performance was Friday night at Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It was the last stop on the West Coast leg of the Experience Hendrix tribute tour.
Looking pale and tired, he played only one song before the sold-out crowd, said Terry Currier, owner of the Music Millennium record shop.
"A friend who was waiting outside the Schnitz to get an autograph told me he saw a couple people helping Mitch walk into the auditorium that night," Currier said. "He didn't seem to be in great health."
Born in England in 1947, John "Mitch" Mitchell was a child actor who quickly moved on to music, becoming an accomplished jazz drummer before the age of 20. Eventually, he became Hendrix's most important musical collaborator, said Jacob McMurray, senior curator at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Hendrix's boyhood home.
The museum's centerpiece is the world's largest collection of Jimi Hendrix artifacts and memorabilia, including the drum set Mitchell played at Woodstock in 1969.
"Jimi was an amazing guitarist and he needed somebody behind the drum kit who could hold his own," McMurray said. "That was Mitch Mitchell."
At 5-foot-5, the wild-haired Mitchell was a small guy who played "lead drums," combining meat-and-potatoes beats with rapid-fire jazz in the three-person group. He was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1992.
Hendrix's manager treated both Mitchell and original bassist Noel Redding as paid employees, limiting their rights to future revenue. In the 1970s, according to Eddie Kramer's book "Hendrix: Setting the Record Straight," Mitchell was forced to sell a prized Hendrix guitar to pay the bills.
"The bonds between Jimi and Mitch kept them together," McMurray said.
Mitchell and Hendrix recorded several tracks on their own, including "Fire," "Voodoo Child" and "Manic Depression," before bringing in Redding to finish them, McMurray said. Hendrix died after a drug overdose in 1970. Redding was 57 when he died in 2003.

(by Joseph Rose and Stuart Tomlinson, The Oregonian, Wednesday November 12, 2008)

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