SEATTLE — Jimi Hendrix’s looping signature greets visitors at the park bearing his name, here in his hometown. The eye-catching purple script is among many personal touches that pay homage to the musician in Jimi Hendrix Park, which was formally christened in 2006 but didn’t open until Saturday, after a decade of permit delays and financial woes.
The 2½-acre park honors the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame guitarist within walking distance of his childhood home in the Central District, one of this city’s historically black neighborhoods that is now rapidly gentrifying. Its opening came on the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Pop Festival, a breakout event for Hendrix, who set his guitar ablaze there.
More than 200 people, from children eager to play with sidewalk chalk to gray-haired fans sporting vintage tie-dye T-shirts, joined local officials, park advocates and the musician’s sister for the ribbon-cutting. Musicians from a youth rock camp belted out a cover of “Purple Haze,” the first tune in a daylong Hendrix soundtrack, from underneath a red sculpture evocative of a butterfly wing.
The sculpture, which doubles as a shade structure over a performance stage, sits at the center of a spiraling sidewalk that resembles a guitar when viewed aerially. At 12 points on the sidewalk, along what would be frets on a guitar neck, plaques embedded in the concrete narrate Hendrix’s life. The lyrics from his songs “Little Wing” and “Angel” are etched along the walkway’s edge, forming a purple ribbon. Cedar saplings, a nod to Hendrix’s Cherokee heritage, mingle with paulownias, which will eventually bloom purple flowers.
The guitarist, who died in 1970 at 27, dropped out of nearby Garfield High School and never returned to live in his hometown after joining the Army in 1961. Nevertheless, King County Councilman Larry Gossett called him “an absolute black historical icon for Seattle” to loud cheering and applause from the crowd.
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