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PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Mitch Mitchell, a pioneering drummer best known for his work with 1960s rock icon Jimi Hendrix, died on Wednesday, at age 62.
Mitchell was found dead in his Portland, Oregon, hotel room. A Multnomah County coroner's spokesman said it appeared he died of natural causes, although a formal finding had not yet been issued.
The drummer had been in Portland for the last stop on an 18-city U.S. tour with Experience Hendrix, a concert series celebrating the legacy of the late rock star.
"We're all devastated to hear of Mitch's passing. He was a wonderful man, a brilliant musician and a true friend," Hendrix's sister, Janie Hendrix, said in a statement on behalf of the estate.
"His role in shaping the sound of the Jimi Hendrix Experience cannot be underestimated," she said. "Over the course of the recent tour, he seemed delighted with the interchange with the other musicians and the audiences. There is no question that he was doing what he loved."
The British-born Mitchell started in show business as a child actor but abandoned that for his true love, jazz and rock music.
He was a top session drummer who joined the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966 and backed the rocker for his legendary performance at Woodstock three years later. He drummed on Hendrix classics such as "Fire," "Manic Depression" and "Third Stone from the Sun."
Mitchell also is credited with helping to develop a "fusion" drumming style that combined rock with jazz and was influenced by such jazz giants as Elvin Jones and Max Roach.
The style made the drums essentially a lead instrument, an innovative concept in rock and roll.
Hendrix - a songwriter, guitarist and showman - was a pioneer of the 1960's psychedelic rock scene who died in September, 1970, at the age of 27.
Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, editing by Vicki Allen