Eric Johnson: On Mitch Mitchell

March 1, 2009

“Mitch Mitchell Played Drums like Picasso or Renoir painted,” says Eric Johnson after performing with the great drummer on the San Francisco stop of the Experience Hendrix tour, a mere nine days before Mitchell’s sudden passing at age 62 on November 12, 2008. “To me, he was a master painter because he didn’t just play drums, he painted beautiful orchestrations. Jimi Hendrix’s music would not have been the same without Mitch. The beautiful parts he wrote on ‘Manic Depression,’ ‘Little Wing,’ and ‘I Don’t Live Today,’ for example, helped make those songs what they are. He made the music swing, and many times his drum parts were as important as the guitar parts. There cannot be enough said about the magic, chemistry, and alchemy—the simpatico— that Jimi and Mitch shared, and we are all the richer for it.

“I had the privilege of playing with Mitch a few times. He was a sweet, passionate man. He held his days with Jimi close to his heart, as they were sacred to him. He had been to the mountaintop, and he rarely spilled his treasured experiences in words. Mitch was one of the first drummers to play a jazz style in a rock band—the original fusion drummer!—as one listen to ‘Third Stone from the Sun’ proves. He inspires me every time I listen to Hendrix. He teaches me that it’s not just about the guitar, it’s about the majesty of the whole painting.”

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