When we hear the name Jimi Hendrix, our thoughts are inundated with a range of images and connotations. We’re tempted to imagine a fuzzy-haired silhouette tinted blue and purple, and associate it with peace, love, freedom and statement-making rock and roll. The name is also synonymous with two additional frizzy-haired silhouettes; maybe you’re seeing the cover of Are You Experienced? But like any other idealized, glorified pop-culture figure, there are real people behind those silhouettes. In fact, Mitch Mitchell’s hair wasn’t always permed-up to match Jimi’s and Noel’s natural volume.
Of all the people who knew Hendrix on a very personal level, one may argue it was Mitch who knew him best–coming of age traveling the world with Jimi and becoming Jimi’s most consistent and trusted drummer and confidant throughout his short career, on the stage, in the studio and in life. But this story isn’t meant to highlight Hendrix’s achievements, as it is meant to provide context for how Mitch Mitchell was extremely instrumental, no, percussive, in the successes and tribulations Hendrix experienced from the time The Experience was formed to the time of his death.
While it’s true that Mitchell’s time with Hendrix is what greatly defined him as an artist, his talent was sought out by many others, his career beginning before meeting Hendrix and continuing successfully, yet quietly, after Jimi was gone. The bulk of this piece tells the story of Mitchell’s career during the Hendrix years, as he remembered it, along with anecdotes from those who were close to the one-of-a-kind spectacular drummer and vibrant personality.