Jimi Hendrix in Harlem: September 5th, 1969

On September 5th, 1969 Jimi Hendrix performed at the Harlem Street Fair at the corner of 139th Street and Lenox Avenue. Only 26, Hendrix had wanted to reestablish a relationship with Black fans “my people”. He arrived characteristically late only to find that the crowd had dwindled to a few hundred Harlem residents.

Harlem had been Hendrix’s home on the east coast before being whisked off to London by a British promoter who saw Jimi Hendrix as having incredible megastar potential.

This homecoming couldn’t have been more different from what he expected. Residents had given up, and considered the show nearly over and his international star power was not holding the community in thrall.

After taking to the stage, a crowd member threw a bottle at Hendrix, which shattered against one of the speakers. Added to this, barrages of eggs covered the stage, a testament to just how the local community felt they had been let down by Hendrix. Nevertheless, Hendrix and his band played while the angry crowd gradually dispersed.

“They didn’t like him,” Charles R. Cross says in his Hendrix biography Room Full of Mirrors. “He was jeered. People heckled him.”

This was deeply ironic, of course, as race had deeply frustrated Hendrix and he hated that he was caught between being reduced to a stereotype by many white fans while being rejected by many in the Black community.

The YouTube link (below) while not a video recording, gives a sense of just how much the performance might have come off as artful noise to those who remained on Lenox and 139th Street that evening.

A Town Hall on Property Taxes and Sanitation

28th Precinct Community Council Meeting

Wednesday, June 8th – 6:30 PM