S.F. Art Exchange marks anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death with photo exhibition
Forty years after his death, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix is more popular than ever.
“Kids as young as eleven or twelve come to my shows to gaze and marvel at my photos of Jimi,” said rock photographer Gered Mankowitz in a phone interview from London. “Many of them are young boys hoping to learn the guitar.”
One of the events commemorating the short life and times and the artistry of Jimi Hendrix is an exhibition of Mankowitz’s photos of Hendrix, taken in two sessions at his London Mason’s Yard studio in 1967. The photos reveal the humor and conviviality of the musical genius – and his obvious good looks. They’re on display at the San Francisco Art Exchange through Oct. 25.
“Jimi was an extremely nice person,” Mankowitz recalled. “And he was very funny. My studio was next to what we used to call a discotheque named The Scotch of St. James. I invited him over after he sat in with the local blues band. He was with his manager, Chas Chandler, who was the bass player with The Animals.”
The photos illustrate what Mankowitz discovered – that Jimi Hendrix was having the time of his life. Who would know that he had only three years to savor the sweetness of it all?
“The British music scene embraced him right way,” Mankowitz said. “Pete Townsend used to talk about ‘his magic mojo.’”
Bill Wyman, the former Rolling Stones bassist, wrote the foreword to Mankowitz’s book, The Experience: Jimi Hendrix at Masons Yard. “It was Brian Jones who took to Jimi right way,” Mankowitz said. “Brian took him to Brian’s favorite clothing shop on King’s Row in Chelsea called Granny Takes A Trip.”
Mankowitz was impressed by Hendrix’s intelligence.
“I’m not a musician,” Mankowitz explained, “but Jimi and I would talk about photography and the notion of image-making. We agreed that the photographs should reflect what Jimi was really like.”
The pictures are terrific.
London still embraces Jimi Hendrix. Nigel Kennedy, the classical violinist whom Mankowitz says is “an obsessive Hendrix fan,” is arranging a concert of Hendrix’s music.
In addition, Handel House in the Mayfair, former home of the baroque composer where Hendrix once lived, is redecorating the apartment to make it look as it did when he lived there. This is under the direction of Cathy Etchington, Hendrix’s one-time girlfriend.
A personal note here: I knew Hendrix in New York, when he played guitar with the John Hammond Blues Band in the sixties. Yes, he was friendly, he was playful. And his magic mojo made that Fender Stratocaster sing. He was not yet Jimi Hendrix. He was Jimi James in those days.
Mankowitz said it was Bill Wyman who saw Hendrix play at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. Wyman dragged Chas Chandler to the show. Chandler took Hendrix back to England with him. The rest, as they say, is history.
But that history ended in 1970 when Jimi Hendrix died in London of a drug overdose. He was only 27 years old. When he died, he was planning a recording session with Miles Davis.
Can You See Me? A Life Through the Lens: Jimi Hendrix photographed by Gered Mankowitz; .F. Art Exchange, 458 Geary Street (between Mason and Taylor), through Oct. 25, Monday–Wednesday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Thursday–Saturday 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; 800-344-9633, www.sfae.com