On the Death of Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell was the drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I first got into “The Experience” when I was in high school. And because I really started playing the drum set in earnest about the same time, he became one of my big influences. Notably, Mitch combined both rock and jazz drum styles into one. He, along with Ginger Baker, really set the benchmarks for drummers in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Keith Moon (The Who) had lots of bombast, but not much finesse. Ringo and Charlie Watts (The Stones) has taste, and the ability to play the “exactly right” part for the song, but weren’t great technicians. Mitch had it all. “The Experience” was a trio. When you play drums in a trio, you have the room to play more without getting in the way. And Mitch could fill up the space, but do so with finesse, taste, chops, and great sounding drums.

Check out the drum solo in this cut, about 3:30 in. Check out that snare roll with the tom accents. Right out of Jazz. Dig the cymbal crashes within the rolls; if you know what Max Roach’s drumming sounds like, and I played just that little bit for you, you couldn’t tell the two players apart. Heck, I even remember where I was when I first heard that solo! I was in the parking lot of Pen Bay Hospital for some reason, listening to the new CD I had just received. To that point, I had never heard any of the live BBC stuff. That solo came on and I was floored! No one, I mean no pop drummer of that day, had ever played a solo like that. At least, none that I had heard. Even today, I haven’t heard many solos from that era that rival it.

Rest in peace, Mitch. Know that your influence still resides in the hearts and hands of drummers all over the world.

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