Behind The Song: Hetty & Jimi by Tom Crow

today16 April 2024 28

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What’s the connection between superstar guitarist, Jimi Hendrix & Welsh school teacher, Hetty Taylor?

Tom Crow, a local folk songwriter visited Newport City Radio recently and told Dani and Kym the story that inspired a song called Hetty & Jimi. 

Hetty Taylor was a school teacher at a small school in the mining town of Aberfan.

Jimi Hendrix was possibly the most famous guitarist in the world.

October 21, 1966, marked a day that Aberfan, perhaps the world will never forget. A catastrophic landslide engulfed the village, burying a primary school and homes under a deluge of coal waste. Amidst the rubble and grief, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of Hetty Taylor, a local schoolteacher who led her class of pupils to safety. Her unwavering dedication to supporting the community amidst unimaginable loss gained her widespread admiration and respect.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, another icon was making waves in the world of music. Global superstar guitarist, Jimi Hendrix.

Little did he know that his path would intersect with that of Hetty Taylor and the grieving community of Aberfan.

In the summer of 1967, Hendrix embarked on his first tour of the United Kingdom, captivating audiences with his revolutionary sound and mesmerizing stage presence. It was during this tour that Hendrix was moved to take a trip to Aberfan.

On an autumn night in London, with two of his roadies, one of whom was from Newport, Hendrix was at the late night Cromwellian club. They were discussing the tragedy of the loss of a generation of children.

The story goes that Hendrix and the roadie from Newport left the club in London and drove to Wales where they slept in a caravan in the garden of the Newportonian’s mother. 

Tom Crow points out that the caravan, wherever it is should have a blue plaque displayed on it! 

At first, it is said Hendrix looked down on the small town from a mountainside. As he did so, he fell to his knees and prayed.

Hendrix walked through the streets of Aberfan and witnessed first hand the devastation wrought by the disaster. Yet, amidst the rubble, he also witnessed the indomitable spirit of a community coming together in solidarity. Some say that it’s just an urban myth that inspired by their strength, Hendrix felt compelled to do something to uplift their spirits.

Legend has it that Hendrix took to the stage of a local community center and delivered an impromptu performance for the residents. With his guitar as his voice, he poured out his soul. For those brief moments, the weight of sorrow was lifted, replaced by the healing power of music.

Among the audience was Hetty Taylor, whose weary heart found solace in the melodies that filled the air. In that shared moment, amidst the strains of Hendrix’s guitar, a bond was forged between two souls from very different worlds. It was proof of the power of music, capable of creating connection in the face of adversity.

In the years that followed,  Hetty Taylor would become a symbol of resilience and Hendrix continued to push the boundaries of music until his untimely death in 1970, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire generations of musicians.

Meanwhile, Hetty Taylor, who married and became Mrs Williams remained a pillar of strength in Aberfan, dedicating her life to supporting the community and ensuring that the memory of the tragedy would never be forgotten.

Look out for more songs by Tom Crow that tell stories of local people and places.


Written by: Kym Frederick

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