Johnny Allen Hendrix (otherwise known as James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix) was born in Seattle in November of 1942, thereby founding the “Live in Seattle if you Want to Be a Talented Musician” act. Seattle, where it rains so much the only thing to do is play music.
Hendrix has practically become another name for guitar. His effortless skill, dripping passion, and innovative creativity for the six-stringed sound-producer has elevated him to the status of legendary in the eyes of practically all who have ever listened to a G-chord once in their lives. If one took the average top five of every “Best Guitarist” poll created in the past 50 years, Hendrix would not only be in the top five, but also he’d probably be first. Now we can sit here and debate whether Hendrix’s short spurt of talent makes him better than guitar gods like Clapton, Allman, King, Vaughan, etc., but that debate is pretty much endless. Simply, they are all great guitarists, and Hendrix, despite only living to 27 years old, is with the group.
On Sept. 18, 1970, 41 years ago, Jimi Hendrix died in London. I know I am two days late on the anniversary, but since Tuesdays are now reserved for music news (when interesting), I thought I would do my anniversary post today. Much mystery surrounds Hendrix’s death. The initial report is that he asphyxiated on his own vomit after consuming a copious amount of red wine, but John Bannister, the surgeon who treated Hendrix and made this claim, was accused by Monika Dannemann, Hendrix’s girlfriend at the time, of malpractice, and was reprimanded for two counts of medical malpractice, and struck off the medical register for fraud in 1992. Apparently, according to reports, Hendrix had little alcohol in his system. Dannermann’s account of the night, though, have changed from interview to interview and she committed suicide shortly after being found guilty of contempt of court for repeating a libel against Kathy Etchingham, another of Hendrix’s girlfriends in the 60s.
A recent book released by a former Animals’ roadie named James “Tappy” Wright claimed that Hendrix was murdered because he wanted to end his management contract, but this report was repudiated by Bob Levine, Wright’s long term business associate and Mike Jeffery’s (Hendrix’s manager at the time) assistant manager in New York. Levine said that Wright made up these stories to sell a book. In the book, Wright has commentary by John Bannister saying that is is plausible that Hendrix could have been murdered.
According to an article released in 2005 by The Sunday Times:
“At some point early that morning he took nine Vesparax. In all likelihood he was under the impression that the pills were weaker than American pharmaceuticals and, desperately needing rest, took a handful. If he had intended to kill himself, as was later assumed, it was odd that he left 40 pills, more than enough to have assured an easy and virtually immediate death.”
“As it was, the nine pills he swallowed would have made him lose consciousness quickly. Some time during the early hours, the combination of the Vesparax, the alcohol in his system and the other drugs he’d used that night caused Jimi to heave up the contents of his stomach. What he brought up — mostly wine and undigested food — was then aspirated into his lungs, causing him to stop breathing.”
The death may forever remain a mystery. Conflicting reports make a true reason-of-death out of reach. A conservative guess would be that the report above is true, but, where there is mystery, there will always be speculation. And where there is speculation, there will always be conspiracy theories. The best guess is your own produced from unbiased sources. But, as the article above concludes, despite everything, Hendrix was still dead on the morning of Sept. 18 and the world mourned.
Here is Hendrix performing “Red House” at Royal Albert Hall in London on Feb. 24, 1969.