Jimi Hendrix was a true one of a kind artist that the world lost so tragically soon when the guitar god sadly joined the ’27 club’, leaving behind a small but timeless collection of songs as part of his legacy which is perhaps one of the greatest in rock. Just a matter of days before his death on 18th September 1970, the musician took to the stage for what would turn out to be the final time at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s in London.
Even now, some 50 years on, there is still the icon of Hendrix looming above the genre of rock music. His story is all too short but utterly unique. Arriving in London in 1966, Hendrix soon became a wild whisper among the glitterati of the thriving sixties music scene. His innovative way of playing the guitar had sent shivers down the spines of the leading court of guitar heroes and his presence was beginning to make waves. Soon enough, Hendrix was the talk of the town.
Shortly after, with his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the guitarist had taken his genius playing to the masses and become a global sensation as he toured iconic festivals and laid waste to those who dare follow his dynamic sound. It was an imposing sight for any guitarist to see Hendrix wail before you were due to go on but, luckily for those guitarists, Hendrix would quickly end up as a headline act, topping the bill.
There weren’t many bigger artists on the planet than Hendrix in 1970 but, tragically, he would be robbed of his life just two days after making his final ever appearance. His final show came when his old friend and former Animals frontman Eric Burdon began a week-long residency at the famous Soho venue with his new band War. Hendrix and The Animals man had been distant for some time but, after Burdon had returned to London and the two old pals reconvened, the situation would lead to the singer inviting Jimi on stage to play with his new band on the 15th.
However, when Hendrix showed up at the venue on the on that very date, Burdon later revealed he was “well out of it”, before clarifying: “He had his guitar with him but he was wobbling too much to play, so I told him to come back tomorrow night.” The story provides a dark insight into Hendrix’s addiction problems that had taken complete control of him by this point.
On the 16th, just one day later, Hendrix arrived in a more fit state and went on to make a short but sweet cameo during their second set of the evening. “I introduced Jimi to the audience,” Burdon wrote in his autobiography Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. “The typical London jazz crowd tried to show indifference as he took the stage, but a ripple of applause greeted the greatest guitar player in the world.”
Together they played extended blistering versions of two covers that Burdon and War had released on their debut which were Memphis Slim’s ‘Mother Earth’ before Hendrix brought out all the stops on a cover of John D. Loudermilk’s ‘Tobacco Road’. Burdon wrote that the guitarist was “flying” during his show-stealing appearance and that his presence made War guitarist Howard Scott “play better than he ever had before”.
Hendrix and his girlfriend Monika Dannemann then went for a late-night meal at the Speakeasy before retiring to the Samarkand Hotel, where she was living. Less than 48 hours later, Dannemann found Hendrix unresponsive and the rock icon was horrifically pronounced dead from choking on his own vomit after taking an overdose of sleeping pills at 12:45 PM.
Despite battling his demons privately, once Hendrix stepped on stage he was a beacon of light who was born to perform and a talent that will forever be sorely missed. Listen to Jimi Hendrix’s final performance, below.