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Jimi Hendrix and Izabella: A rock ‘n’ roll love story

@TomTaylorFO

Jimi Hendrix was so rarely without a guitar that it seemed he may have been born with one attached to his hands like some godly appendage. In truth, he could’ve gotten a tune out of a tennis racket, never mind a Stratocaster, so he was always pretty carefree about which axe he picked up, nevertheless, they were always his weapon of choice.

Amongst the many that he smashed up, set on fire or else flung into sonic oblivion and picked up rather more shiny one—there was a belle that came along and stole his heart, and he vowed never to maim in any way shape or form. He merely bowed down to her majesty and played songs in homage, occasionally with his teeth. He named this particular Start, Izabella. 

It is this 1968 Olympic White Stratocaster with which is he is most likely best remembered. After all, every trailblazer always has one moment that weaves itself into the iconography of pop culture and finds itself riveted to the subconscious of society. For Hendrix, that image is his iconic display at Woodstock 1969 and with good reason too. 

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“Jimi Hendrix playing ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock was a cultural moment heard around the world,” Fender’s Mike Lewis remarked. “It represents a moment in history that will forever be woven in our cultural make-up.” As the iconic Woodstock concert film puts it “with a cast of half a million outrageously friendly people,” Hendrix seemed to crystalise the counterculture movement.

Janie Hendrix who now manages the late maestro’s estate opines: “The unforgettable image of Jimi with his Strat on that Woodstock stage is embodied in this guitar. He changed music history with every earth-shaking note he played that day.” So, what of the history-making guitar itself and why did he choose it over any other?

The guitar, after all, was a standard 1968 issue that Hendrix picked up at Manny’s Music store in New York City. Well, simply put, more so than the technical aspects, Izabella simply had the look. As any guitarist will tell you, some guitars just feel right and for Hendrix, the bulky headstock on the 1968 start just felt right and looked great when he flipped it around held it aloft before the screaming masses. 

As it happens, the iconic Izabella guitar was also the last axe he ever yielded when playing with The Experience and sadly the last he ever ventured onto the stage with too. In a fitting ode to the guitar that rattled the rafters of the clouds over Woodstock, Hendrix later went on and penned the guitar itself an ode. You can now see this glistening dove-like beauty displayed the MoPOP in Seattle, where man and beast riffed like no other.