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Hendrix's drummer Mitch Mitchell dies

Published: Thu November 13, 2008  News Feed

Mitch Mitchell, the British drummer in the seminal 1960s band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, has been found dead in his US hotel room, authorities say.

[From BBC] The 61-year-old was discovered in the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of Wednesday. A medical examiner told Associated Press news agency the death appeared to be from natural causes but that there would be an autopsy.

Hendrix died in 1970 and the band's bassist Noel Redding died in 2003. Mitchell, from Ealing in west London, had been touring with the Experience Hendrix Tour.

Janie Hendrix, chief executive of the tour and step-sister of Jimi Hendrix, paid tribute to Mitchell.

"He was a wonderful man, a brilliant musician and a true friend," she said.

Mitchell drummed for Hendrix at his legendary Woodstock performance. He performed on Hendrix classics such as Are You Experienced? Electric Ladyland and Axis: Bold As Love.

The top session drummer was one of the best and most respected drummers of the sixties, having played with 
the likes of Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Keith Richards and Muddy Waters, which goes to show how highly regarded he was.

Pioneer Drummer

A musical pioneer, he is credited with helping to develop a "fusion" drumming style that combined rock with jazz. This is a "lead" style of playing distinguished by interplay with lead instruments such as guitar or keyboards, and the melding of jazz and rock drumming styles. Though lead drums was not a new concept in the world of jazz, it was relatively unheard of in the rock genre at the time.

Upon joining Hendrix in late 1966, it soon became evident to Mitch that the trio format of the band was very similar to the recently formed Cream, and that it would allow him an opportunity to become more free with his playing. Like a jazz drummer, Mitch's playing not only provided a rhythmic support for the music, but also a source of momentum and melody.

He joined the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966 and backed the rocker for his legendary performance at Woodstock three years later.

If Jimi Hendrix was a revolutionary guitarist, it must be remembered that Mitch Mitchel was certainly one of the most revolutionary drummers of his time, as well. He was unfairly underrated, and never quite achieved the star status of some of his contemporaries, but his peers always recognised his brilliance, and his importance to rock'n'roll history is undeniable.

Bob Merlis, a spokesman for the tour, said his death was "devastating".

He had seen Mitchell perform two weeks ago in Los Angeles and the drummer appeared healthy and upbeat, he said.

Blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who is part of the tour, said Mitchell was to drums what Hendrix was to guitar.

"Today many of us have lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a rock 'n' roll hero," he said.

Watch Mitch Mitchel in Action:

The Dirty Mac (feat. Eric Clapton, John Lennon & Keith Richards), "Yer Blues"

Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Hey Joe/ Sunshine Of Your Love"

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