The Leon Hendrix Experience: Jimi's Brother, Working for Some Respect and a Little Bit of Cash
new issue of Seattle Weekly has a long piece on the life and times of Leon Hendrix, Jimi's younger brother. The story, written by Mike Seely, addresses the legacy of the famous Hendrix, his lesser-known guitar-playing brother, Beverly Hills lawyer Craig Dieffenbach, and the massive Hendrix estate, which is controlled by Jimi's half-sister Janie. Lots of beefs and drama, much discussion about the oft-silly ideas that come from the estate and which threaten to tarnish Jimi's legacy -- "The Jimi Hendrix rocking chair is one of the dumbest ideas ever marketed in rock and roll," says one authority at some point -- and, overall, a lot of drug-taking, arguing and lawsuits. That's rock and roll. Writes Seely:
Bankrolled to the tune of $3.5 million in legal fees by a wealthy real-estate developer named Craig Dieffenbach, who doubled as Leon's manager at the time, Leon filed suit in King County Superior Court after his father's death. Here he claimed his stepsister, who only met Jimi a handful of times in her youth, had manipulated an elderly, infirm Al into rewriting a will that did not represent his true interests. In court, Janie's lawyers portrayed Al's action as tough love--after Leon had squandered multiple opportunities to prove himself a worthy recipient of his brother's fortune. In 2004, the judge ruled in favor of Janie.
"Whatever the will said, Leon was the single closest person to Jimi during the course of his life," observes Cross, who attended much of the trial. "Should he have been included? Positively, yes. There's the law, and then there's what's right."
Counters Janie: "First of all, the closest person to Jimi was Dad. As far as Leon goes, it is sad and unfortunate, but Leon received more than two million dollars in his lifetime when my father was taking care of him. And Leon had already sold his rights to various people. If he'd gotten any money, it wouldn't come to him, it would come to the people he'd sold his rights to."
But then, the struggle for Jimi's fortune has been going on for a long time, and has been definitively resolved; what's most fascinating (and predictable) about the history is the myriad ways in which everybody's still trying to make a buck and capitalize on Jimi's legacy. There's the biopic that Leon claims Steven Seagal working on (which, er, doesn't really engender much confidence), as well as the upcoming Leon Hendrix album purportedly featuring members of Styx and Deep Purple (ditto). The latter, in fact, has its own set of legal problems -- and when the rights to a Leon Hendrix album are in dispute, you get the feeling that this whole thing is a pretty Sisyphean exercise.
Then there's this, of Jimi Hendrix's return from the grave: "Later, while loaded, [Leon] says, he nodded off. Shortly thereafter, he claims, 'Jimi came and the guitar started vibrating, making noise by itself. The guitar started to talk to me, and it was compelling.'"