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Jimi Hendrix, the guitar genius of the 20th century, have a connection with his guitars as if they were an extension of his own body. Beyond the guitars he famously smashed and burn in artistic frenzy, there was one that stood as a testament to his bond with his instrument – the Stratocaster named “Izabella”.

The year was 1968, and Hendrix found himself in love to a white Fender Stratocaster. It was a standard 1968 edition, a purchase made at Manny’s Music store in the heart of New York. Little did anyone know that this guitar would become a cornerstone of Hendrix’s musical identity. The Stratocaster “Izabella” became more than a guitar; it was a symbol of artistic intimacy between man and instrument.

How did the Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster “Izabella” become a symbol of counterculture and artistic expression?

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, with hi "Izabella" Fender Stratocaster.
Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, with hi “Izabella” Fender Stratocaster.
Credit: ie99

It is most notably linked to a pivotal moment in history – Jimi Hendrix’s electrifying performance at Woodstock in 1969. Amidst the haze of that iconic festival, Hendrix’s Stratocaster emitted the haunting notes of the American national anthem, “Star-Spangled Banner.” “The image of Jimi Hendrix playing the American national anthem…represents a moment in history that will forever be woven into our cultural fabric,” said Mike Lewis, a spokesperson for Fender. The guitar itself became a symbol of counterculture and artistic expression. The performance was a musical declaration against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, tracing itself into the collective memory of a generation characterized by peace, love, and a fervent rejection of conflict in Vietnam.

Yet, beyond its historical significance, Hendrix’s connection to the “Izabella” Stratocaster (also know as The Woodstock Strat) was also deeply personal. He was captivated not only by its technical attributes but also by its aesthetic design. The guitar’s attraction was so potent that it inspired a song bearing its name – “Izabella.” The song recorded in 1969, carried a unique weight. It remained unreleased during Hendrix’s lifetime, waiting for the right moment to be public released. In “Izabella,” Hendrix’s signature guitar style dances, offering a glimpse of his musical essence and creative prowess.

What Happened To The Woodstock Stratocaster After The Death Of Jimi Hendrix?

Following Hendrix’s death in 1970, the Woodstock Stratocaster went through several ownership changes. It was initially held by Hendrix’s manager, James “Tappy” Wright. Later, the guitar ended up in the hands of Hendrix’s father, Al Hendrix. It was stored in a custom-made display case and became one of the valuable artifacts of Jimi’s career. In 1990, the Woodstock Stratocaster was donated by Al Hendrix to the Experience Music Project (now known as MoPOP) museum in Seattle, Washington. This move ensured that the guitar remained a part of public history and could be appreciated by future generations. The museum put it on display as a part of its Jimi Hendrix exhibit, celebrating the musician’s impact on the music world.

 A couple of years later, it was sold at auction for $198,000 to Gabriele Ansaloni, the Italian TV host and music critic. At the time, this was the most that had ever been paid for a guitar, but again in 1993, Ansaloni sold the guitar to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, reportedly for $2 million.

In the year 2000, it was Paul Allen who established the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, the very city where Hendrix was born. The guitar has been securely showcased there from that point onward. However, the museum has undergone a rebranding and is now known as the Museum of Pop Culture, abbreviated as MoPOP.

Below, in the video, you can listen to Izabella’s performance at Woodstock 1969, played at that time by the band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows.

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