Jimi Hendrix family dispute escalates over use of name for music school

Brother and niece found to have infringed injunction from company run by guitarist’s stepsister, preventing them from using the Hendrix name commercially

Jimi Hendrix’s brother and niece have been found in contempt of court, after they violated a ruling that forbids them from using the Hendrix name commercially.

The rights to Hendrix’s music, name and likeness are held by two connected companies, Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, created by the musician’s father Al Hendrix in 1995. Since his death in 2002, the companies have been run by Al’s adopted daughter Janie Jinka.

The current dispute began in 2017, when the musician’s brother Leon Hendrix was sued for using the Hendrix name on products “which include cannabis, edibles, food, wine, alcohol, ‘medicines,’ and electronic products”. An order was made against him for $402,018; and an injunction was taken out against him preventing him from further use of “the name ‘Jimi Hendrix’, the name ‘Jimi’, the name ‘Hendrix’, in any configuration … or any image, likeness or signature of Jimi Hendrix”.

A New York judge has now ruled that Leon, along with his daughter Tina Hendrix, violated that injunction by running the non-profit, fee-free music school Hendrix Music Academy. They must recall any merchandise bearing Hendrix’s name and likeness – T-shirts with Jimi’s face were sold on its website – and rename the school.

Leon Hendrix must pay his opponents’ legal fees and was warned by the judge that he “carries the keys of his prison in his own pocket” and must not make any further violations.

Tina Hendrix criticised the ruling, telling Billboard: “This battle is not about money but the right to use my own family birth-given name for charitable purposes … I am astonished that the courts have sided with Experience Hendrix and stripped us from our rights to use our own family surname.”

Experience Hendrix has not commented on the ruling.

The dispute is the latest chapter in a long-running disagreement between different members of the Hendrix family. Jimi Hendrix died without a will, and his assets passed to Al; when Al died in 2002, his own will left nothing to Leon apart from a single gold disc. Leon attempted to have that will overturned to gain control of a portion of the Hendrix estate, but a judge ruled against him in 2004, allowing Jinka to continue acting as a trustee.

The judge in that case also ruled against Jinka, however, finding that she had breached her duties as a trustee by failing to make payments to family members. She conceded she had made errors in the early years of managing the estate.

Under Jinka, Experience Hendrix keeps a tight hold on the musician’s rights: the company prevented the 2013 biopic film Jimi: All Is By My Side, starring André 3000, from using any of Hendrix’s songs.

Fans hold out hope that the company will allow the release of the 16-song collection Black Gold, written in 1970, the year he died. The demo recordings, with Hendrix singing over acoustic guitar, were handed to his drummer Mitch Mitchell, who assumed they were not a unique copy and forgot about them. They were rediscovered in the 90s. In 2010 Jinka said they would be released during that decade, but they have never appeared.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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