In the 2020 movie Bill & Ted Face the Music, Jimi Hendrix teams up with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a number of other musical geniuses from history to perform a song that will connect everyone, breaking the barriers of space and time. While that story is clearly fiction, it does seem there is something that connects Hendrix to one of history’s greatest composers — something that pulled the two together, despite two centuries’ separation.
Take a visit to London’s Brook Street, and you will quickly find yourself standing near a musical historical coincidence. George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) moved into 25 Brook Street in the summer of 1723. He had just been appointed as the composer to the Chapel Royal by King George II. Although making the princely sum of £400 per year, Handel was not permitted to purchase the property or enter into a long-term lease. His status as a foreign national limited him to short-term lease agreements. Although this changed when he acquired British citizenship in 1727, Handel continued renting the property on short-term leases for the rest of his life. It was there that Handel wrote the most famous of all oratorios, “Messiah,” as well as “Water Music” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks.”
Nearly 200 years later, another musical figure of historical significance moved next door. Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) rented the premises at 23 Brook Street. Hendrix rented the property in late 1966. Within months of moving in, he earned three UK top ten hits with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” While living there, Hendrix became the world’s highest-paid performer.
Today, Hendel’s former residence is the location of the Handel & Hendrix Home. The site states that its mission “is to promote knowledge, awareness, and enjoyment of Handel and his music to as wide a public audience as possible. We strive to inspire, educate and inform through the interpretation of the Georgian house at 25 Brook Street, where Handel lived and composed for 36 years, through live music performances, educational and outreach activities, and collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting objects related to Handel’s life and works. In addition, we aim to promote the continuing and diverse musical and cultural heritage of 23 Brook Street through its association with Jimi Hendrix who lived here in the late 20th century.”
Visitors are left to ponder the coincidences that brought together two musicians who chose London and transformed music. These two musical masters were separated by only one wall and two centuries.
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