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The mystery behind the death of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was an exhaustive comet of dizzying intensity. Although audiences never tired of his abilities, it was Hendrix himself who burnt out fairly early in his career. Towards the end of his short life and time in the music industry, the innovative guitar player had already mastered the blues and taken it to a newer and more exciting level. Hendrix had the skill, he had the showmanship, the progressive forward-thinking, and had enough heart and intelligence to match the poetic prowess of Jim Morrison. Hendrix could have ascended to a position of great cultural significance as the voice of a generation – he certainly was a cultural hero when it came to playing the guitar.

On September 18th, 1970, Hendrix was pronounced dead at 12:45 PM; authorities found him suffocated at 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill, in London. Why did so many of the greatest musicians during this time not only die at a young age but died at far too young of an age? It even prompted a club to proselytise and romanticise the deaths of these cultural and music icons: the ’27 club’ of which the young guitar player has further been immortalised. 

Hendrix’s career truly began when he met ex-Animals bassist, Chas Chandler, in Greenwich Village, New York City. Hendrix had cut his teeth touring and playing alongside artists such as The Isley Brothers and Little Richard prior to this moment. The introduction came about via Keith Richards’ girlfriend at the time, fashion model Linda Keith. She convinced Chandler to check Hendrix out at the Wha? Club where he was performing that night on July 5th, 1966. The rest is history, so to speak. 

Chandler brought Hendrix over to England where he established The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Experience would tour extensively and go pretty much non-stop. Among his electrifying way of playing and his stage antics such as lighting his guitar on fire, Hendrix popularised the manipulation of guitar tone with the help of various different guitar pedals such as wah-wah, Octavia, and fuzz distortion. 

During his final interview, he ever gave with Keith Altham of the Record Mirror, only a week before his death, on September 11th, 1970, Altham had asked Hendrix, “Do you feel any kind of compulsion to prove yourself as King Guitar?” Hendrix replied, “Do, I don’t even let that bother me. Because they say a lot of things about people that, if they let it bother them, they wouldn’t even be around today…King Guitar now? Wow, that’s a bit heavy.”

Hendrix has also denied any accolades that suggest he invented psychedelic rock music, saying: “I don’t consider [my music] the invention of psychedelic, it’s just asking a lot of questions.”

The psychedelic-blues guitar player had an uncanny ability to create a lot of different varying sounds with only his guitar; while Hendrix wasn’t the first to experiment with feedback and distortion, he was one of the first to do so in such a masterly way that it seemed that he was connected to a different frequency of energy.

How did Jimi Hendrix die?

The legendary guitar player died of asphyxia from vomit after consuming barbiturates downed by wine. In the early afternoon of September 18th, 1970, Hendrix’s girlfriend at the time who had slept next to him the night before, Monika Dannemann, found Hendrix unresponsive in her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel. She called for an ambulance at 11:18 am.

Dannemann reportedly stated: “We went to sleep about 7am. When I woke up at eleven his face was covered in vomit, and he was breathing noisily. I sent for an ambulance, and he was taken to hospital. I also noticed that ten of my sleeping tablets were missing.”

Allegedly, Dannemann claimed that Hendrix had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping tablets, 18 times the recommended dosage.

The death of Jimi Hendrix shocked the world. (Credit: Bent Rej)

Was Jimi Hendrix murdered? 

Because of the association of the hippie countercultural movement of the 1960s, and the untimely deaths of many of the movement’s important leaders, particularly of colour (Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X – allies included the Kennedy brothers etc.), some have claimed with a degree of conspiracy that Hendrix was murdered. 

There are alleged claims that Hendrix was murdered, but it wasn’t for political reasons, more so for money.

According to James ‘Tappy’ Wright, a former roadie of Hendrix, in his book he alleges that Hendrix was murdered by his manager, Michael Jeffrey. During the last few months of Hendrix’s life, he was suffering from exhaustion, disillusionment with the music business, and in particular, dissatisfaction with his manager – he was considering finding a new one.

According to Wright, Jeffrey feared being replaced by a new manager and decided that he was going to cash in on the two million dollar life insurance that Jeffrey allegedly was the beneficiary of. Wright goes so far as to claim that Jeffrey allegedly confessed to the ex-roadie, saying: “I had to do it, Tappy,” Wright wrote in his tell-all book, Rock Roadie, according to The Guardian.

“You understand, don’t you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I’m talking about,” it adds. “We went round to [his] hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth…then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe.”

The roadie-turned-writer wrote about the confession, “I can still hear [the] conversation, see the man I’d known for so much of my life, his face pale, hand clutching at his glass in a sudden rage.”

Conspiracy theorists claim Jimi Hendrix was murdered. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Was there ever an investigation into Jimi Hendrix’s death?

Despite Hendrix’s wavering attitude towards the whole music business and his excessive drug intake towards the end of his life, there is reason to believe that Hendrix was allegedly murdered. Although, it has since been proven inconclusive and a case was never opened. 

The man who discovered Hendrix and who worked as his producer, Chas Chandler, stated after Hendrix’s death: “I don’t believe for one minute that he killed himself. That was out of the question.”

John Bannister, who worked as the on-call registrar at the time, stated: “We worked on him for about half an hour,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “But there was not a breath. His oesophagus was full of wine. There was wine everywhere.”

An element of contradiction existed in the story which allowed for a good amount of doubt to seep into it. Bannister also said, according to The Times: “Not only was it saturated right through his hair and shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine…we kept sucking him out and it kept surging and surging…he had really drowned in a massive amount of red wine.” Meanwhile, according to autopsy reports, there was very little alcohol in his bloodstream. 

The official cause of his death is “inhalation of vomit [due to] barbiturate intoxication.” This, along with Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffrey’s connections to the mob, have led some conspiracy theories to claim that Jeffrey hired mobsters to kill him – all of which have never been proven to be true.

In addition, Dannemann’s story has some inconsistencies: she had changed the time of when she noticed Hendrix unresponsive a few times, and also that she went out to get cigarettes at one point before she called the ambulance.

The death of arguably one of the most innovative guitar players to have ever existed will, unfortunately, remain a mystery.

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